Ep.5 Wildland Firefighting

Written by on December 1, 2021

Tree of the Week: Western Juniper (Juniperus Occidentalist)

Conifer tree with a distinctive smell. It’s adapted to its extreme high desert conditions in Central Oregon, down to Northern California. OSU has found trees between 1200-1600 years old in the dwindling patches of old-growth Juniper stands. This tree has spiritual importance to the natives of this land and also provided material for baskets, mats, sandals, and jewelry. They made tea from its berries to fight colds, as a diuretic, and to ease the pain of giving birth.

The key to a long life is the proper management of resources. Western Junipers don’t exasperate nutrients in upward growth, rather they build up in the roots and girth of the trunk allowing them to survive and withstand such harsh conditions. Often there is a beautiful mix of dead and living wood which is different for each tree. It sometimes seems like mother natures bonsai tree (juniper is a popular choice of bonsai around the world). No two tree is alike and each is just as beautiful. As discussed in the long life of a tree last episode (Click here to listen), there is just as much life in the tree even after its death. This is apparent in the array of animals who call the deadwood of Western Juniper their home.  Mountain bluebirds and red-and-white-breasted nuthatches and other species use old-growth woodlands of western juniper for their habitat. There are typically more birds, wood rats, and other small animals in pre-settlement stands than more recent growth. More than 80 species of animals live in the snags, logs, decaying, and hollow trees of old-growth juniper.

Example of Juniper with living and dead wood

Wildland Firefighting: Protecting the Forests we Love

Fire is a dangerous element in nature but is actually just as natural as rainfall. Wildfire cycles in the forest ecosystem are important for biodiversity and the general health of the environment. It has been part of the ecosystem for thousands of years.

Below is the edge of a fire started by lightning which we were able to keep from spreading more than an acre. We went direct and dug line around the entire fire and then spend the two days after putting it completely out.

Ground cover is burned up to the fire line.

This is a video of a tree torching about 70 feet off our dozer push (a fire line dug by a bulldozer instead of by hand). This was on the Too Kush 2 as we were hiking out after a long day holding line. This is the same fire where the spot fires happened in the dry grass field which you can hear about in the recording from today. Holding line is standing by the fire line facing away from the fire watch to make sure the fire doesn’t jump over.

Tree torching by the fire line.

This last photo is of some of our crew hiking back down the hill after going up to a spot on the hillside. You can see our fire-resistant yellow shirts that are required for all wildland firefights. You can see me in the front also carrying the dolmar which holds the fuel and oil for a chainsaw. This is only a small example of some of the hills/mountains we had to hike up to reach a fire.

Hiking out after hiking up the hill to a spot fire (I’m the one closest to the camera)

We’ll be discussing forest fires and my time as a firefighter in future episodes so make sure to tune in when we come back from break on January 3rd for another episode of Tree Talk!

Have a favorite tree or an adventure you’d like to share from your time out in nature? Leave a comment on this post or send an email to [email protected]!





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