Smokey The Bear’s message is as relevant as ever. Don’t be careless with campfires and such.

I very much agree with the idea of sound forest management, including prescribed burns, but morons leaving unextinguished campfires does not fit into that scenario. We had a fire out by our place in Eastern WA because of some jackass at the unofficial shooting range shot something that sparked. I wish Smokey had been there to maul him.


I notice she managed to get through the entire interview without having to say, on the record, whether she supports forest thinning - which doesn’t prevent forest fires but which does put money in the pockets of industry. Savvy evasion on her part, or incompetence on the part of the interviewer?


We need MORE wildfires, Andrew??! How much is Big Timber paying you and Susan Pritchard to pitch such bullshit? What we need is to have what old growth forest land we have left preserved. A lot of it is gone from so much logging and clearcutting. New growth forests aren't producing enough oxygen and shade. Along with drier summers and the lack of seasonal rainfall that many of us are accustomed to (I grew up on Fidalgo Island overlooking Deception Pass), I cannot imagine additional wildfire smoke being beneficial--especially for those with asthma and / or weak respiratory systems during the current ongoing COVID pandemic.


@4: If you'd bothered to read the article, or even the very quick summary our very own Divine Mrs. Catalina provided, you'd know the article advocates for smaller, controlled burns. Unlike our current wild fires, which send smoke and dust long distances, the burns advocated here would not coalesce into such enormous raging firestorms. Indeed, smaller and controlled burns can even prevent huge fires from happening later.


@5 tensed up: I actually did read Andrew Engelson's article, start to finish before you got all hot and bothered as usual regarding my comments. Did you actually read the headline? Hear Us Out: We Actually Need More Wildfires, Not Fewer. The need for more wildfires--WILDFIRES---NOT controlled burns--was what was specified. Wildfires are dangerous, unpredictable in their course of direction, and can easily spread if not readily contained. And a lot can depend, too, on the number of available firefighters there are to extinguish a wildfire, especially one spreading over thousands of acres and square miles endangering communities as well as agricultural and forestland.
And there has indeed, been a history of too much clearcutting throughout Washington State for the profits of Big Timber. I do believe that a big part of our current wildfire and smoke season woes is that we have lost a lot of our old growth forests. Catalina aired her disgust with irresponsible people mishandling campfires, and I agree with her there.
Maybe ease off on the caffeine intake for a while. Give your nervous system a break.


@6: "The need for more wildfires--WILDFIRES---NOT controlled burns--was what was specified."

Then the title mislead you. But the scientist was very clear in what she meant. She doesn't have your absolute distinction between a controlled burn and a wildfire. (Hint: try searching for her phrase, "managed wildfire".) Here's some of what you seem to have missed:

"We can have some fire come in through prescribed burning or even manage wildfires at the end of the season when snow and rain is just about to come — having some of those fires vaccinate our landscapes and our communities. So that when fire does hit, it’s not as damaging."

"But the reality is that on both sides of the Cascades, but especially in Eastern Washington, the lower elevations had fires every five to 25 years. Higher elevations were less frequent. Across a range in elevations, fire was so frequent that it tended to limit the size and severity of the next fire."

So, we want to get back to that. How? By returning to practices which worked well here for a long time:

"The practice of Indigenous burning was varied and had a lot of nuance to it, but in general, as people lived within fire-prone landscapes, actually working with fire and intentionally setting fire in grasslands and forests meant the next fires that came were less intense and less damaging. The fires not only opened up areas for hunting and gathering and farming but they also made fire a more benign visitor when it came."

So, we should employ both controlled burns, and allow natural burns to continue (in some cases). Just as the people who lived here before us did.

"I do believe that a big part of our current wildfire and smoke season woes is that we have lost a lot of our old growth forests."

That's nice, but your belief isn't really supported by the material in the article. Maybe that's why you really didn't understand what she clearly said?


You can see what she's saying for yourselves at inciWeb on the two current Methow Valley fires. They're blocked by burn scars. You can also look at a map of the Carlton Complex fire in 2014 and see how it was blocked to the east by the super aggressive 2009 WA DNR timber sales in reax to recession-related tax shortfalls. Here: 1. logging is as intense as ever (almost), 2. the "poorly managed forests" are that way because they're steep, high (where the lightning is) and jack-strawed and the logging companies don't want to log them and 3. grazing is also a factor. The Forest Service dumps tons and tons of grass seed onto the forests, not so much to create a super tinder-dry fire hazard as one would think, but to make for more lucrative grazing leases. Also, fire-wise, CA is a different planet than WA/OR.


"The practice of Indigenous burning was varied and had a lot of nuance to it...."

Thank you for this. If I hear one more performative wokester asserting that Indigenous folks actively managed every last acre like an enlightened backyard garden prior to European settlement, I'm going to lose my lunch. Yes, much (though certainly not all) of the peopled lowlands around Puget Sound and the Willamette Valley saw a direct and sustained anthropogenic influence, typically by targeted burning. See the fire scars on the ancient Douglas-firs at Hoypus Hill near Deception Pass for example. But these practices were limited by far fewer people than are here today, a cooler and wetter climate, a complete lack of power tools, and a laudable Indigenous mindset that opted to work alongside Ma Nature rather than dominate her.

What @2 said. Thinning as a means to prevent wildfire is a complete fraud, particularly in western Washington where thinning (and clearcutting) in fact increases fire risk by drying out the understory and forest floor earlier in the summer. Yet "fireproofing" via thinning is avidly pushed by Hilary Franz and every other politician regardless of party at the behest of the timber industry.

@8, this summer's Cedar Creek fire burned right through newly logged DNR land above the Methow Valley. The Pincer Creek fire above the Cascade River is currently burning in the exact same acreage that burned in 2003.


@7: When Western Washington State's forests had a higher concentration of old growth coniferous trees--particularly Douglas Firs, there was stronger ground cover. This, along with a more reliable amount of annual rainfall and snowfall helped prevent drought and the risk of wildfires due to sufficient snowpack and permafrost.The point I'm making was not mentioned in this article, but it is still a contributing factor as to why we are currently experiencing such a terrible increase of wildfires and a dangerous level of unhealthy air quality now. Trees bring oxygen and shade. I blame excessive logging in part for the current number of increased wildfires.
My main question to Andrew Engelson and Susan Pritchard is: how, then, do we successfully conduct controlled burns during one of Washington's worst drought seasons in history? Meanwhile, firefighting crews along The North Cascades Highway (SR20) between milepost 144 and 171 are still working to put out one of Washington's worst wildfires this season. That is 17 miles of forestland on fire by itself, yet to be fully extinguished.
Tensor, perhaps you have little to no understanding of the environmental impact of human-caused climate change and just like to comment for argument's sake? I suggest you take some time off from concern trolling and read comments @2 and @9 if you haven't already.

@9 breezly: BINGO!! Thank you and bless you! What you and @2 said. This was also my point, too. I share your concerns.


@10: Correction: "Meanwhile, firefighting crews along The North Cascades Highway (SR20) between mileposts 144 and 171 are still working to put out one of Washington's worst wildfires this season. That is 27 (not 17) miles of forestland on fire by itself, yet to be extinguished. "
27 miles of Washington State forestland by itself on fire is even worse.


Why be surprised by this news.... its just a continuation of the government trying to control all aspects of our the forests by implementing programs known to be contra-indicated, but doing it anyway.

Government knows / we got you from cradle to the grave.


@4, etc.: We're still waiting for you to explain how Susan Prichard's recommendation for more fire in our forests makes her, and the author of this article, into paid lackeys of the timber industry. How does advocating for burning the very thing the timber industry wants to sell play into industry's hand, exactly? You barged in here with those slanderous personal attacks, which you have not yet even attempted to justify, and you lecture others on the need for less confrontation? Try it yourself sometime.

As for your mantra about old-growth forests, well, to the extent your definition of "old-growth" forest overlaps with Prichard's definition of Indigenously-managed forest, then I'd say you were correct. But, strictly speaking, an old-growth forest, left to itself, will tend toward a catastrophic fire, as Mother Nature literally clears out the dead wood in her grand style.

There is no doubt that a for-profit tree farm, and a healthy, managed forest have little in common, and our belief that we could have both at once, on the same land, has caused plenty of damage. Susan Prichard has offered us some interesting ideas on how to heal Washington state's forest lands, and she deserves better than you have given her for it.


@13: Condescending for argument's sake without bothering to actually read other people's comments? Then lump those of us that you disagree with all into one category you despise to get us on the defensive? Try harder, Avis.
Before getting your BVDs in a wad as usual, why not surprise us--go pour yourself a glass of [your favorite beverage] and chill. Unless you'd prefer controlled burns.


@13: I noticed that neither you, nor Andrew Engelson, nor Susan Pritchard, however knowledgable on maintaining healthy forests, nor anybody else answered my question in comment @10, either, about how to conduct controlled burns safely during the driest wildfire season in Washington State history.

Oh, listen------crickets!


Andrew Engelson and Susan Pritchard: how about this: We Actually Need More Controlled Burns, Not Wildfires.


@14-16: Of course you provide no answer, no justification, no factual basis of any kind, for your right-off-the-bat personal attacks upon both the scientist and the reporter. You just pile on more personal attacks upon anyone who dares object to your behavior. How tiresome.

@15: Again, the answer you seek was already in the article itself, which you either didn't read, or didn't understand: "...manage wildfires at the end of the season when snow and rain is just about to come — having some of those fires vaccinate our landscapes and our communities. So that when fire does hit, it’s not as damaging."

(Who was that commenter, above, who suggested you search for a phrase like, "manage wildfires"? Sounds like he was trying to point you in the correct direction for the answers you seek. Too bad you were too busy yelling to pay attention, eh?)


@16: Why do you imagine the scientist or the journalist wrote the title? They had a conversation, which he edited down into a tightly coherent expression of her ideas on how to use fire to restore health to Washington state's forest lands. He then sold his great piece of journalism to The Stranger, who intentionally put an outrageous headline on it, something The Stranger has been doing for its entire existence. (Hint: the image The Stranger put on it wasn't burning forest land, but of the Space Needle obscured by smoke.)

Just because the headline mislead you doesn't mean anyone else had a problem with it. Again, the scientist doesn't hold to your absolute dichotomy between a controlled burn and a wildfire, so there is no reason she should have suggested the distinction you made between them in your suggested title.


Interesting that so many are more here are interested in argument than discussion.
Please, do grow up soon.

If you remember, the Forest Service wanted a waiver so their crews could go out and do their proscribed controlled burns. They were told, "No. You can't do that." Ergo, less of the Forest Services planned maintenance happened.
A shame the interviewer didn't ask anything about that, and if the wildfires now were in the areas the controlled burns were scheduled to be... lit.

I have a friend w/ property near Bumping Lake, Goose Prairie, and a wilderness area there that gets no control delivered.
Good for them the fire blew away from their land, bad for the people it blew over and burned their schtuff. It is 3% contained, and currently scorching the life out of tens of thousands of acres. That one was started by lightning.

Doing the burns over winter makes SO much sense, but Covid and an over abundance of redundant cautious abundance totally screwed the plan, the pooch, and the clear skies we might enjoy for this summer, possibly next.
Good thing we all have masks to wear now.


@19: tensor's just bored.


@19 Nuclear Marc: Thank you for adding clarification--that many were wanting to do exactly as Susan Pritchard had recommended--controlled burns, only to be told not to do so by the U.S. Forest Service. A lot of needless disaster could have been prevented.
I agree with you---it sounds like there was much in details to this article that was missing.
I'm sorry to read about your friend's awful situation near Bumping Lake, Goose Prairie, and hope it gets better there.


@20: Correction: tensor's just full of hot air, as usual.

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