Friday, June 29, 2007

Madison Arm Fire

Coordinated by USFS
the elk are happy

.. The news wires and the blogs are all atwitter with the news of the Madison Arm Fire. Rightly so, if you are a wildfire fan. The fire is currently about 10% controlled. You can follow the progress at the Incident Information System Web Portal (InciWeb.) Updates are posted as the incident commander sees fit; usually every four hours or so, depending on the situation.
.. There are maps and other details about this and other incidents throughout the nation, (including prescribed burns.) The site is an excellent resource for those folks in areas where wildfires are a regular occurrence - we use it frequently.
.. The fire has been ascribed to "probable human activity." That makes sense since there has been no rain or thunder for a week or so. The investigators are on scene.
.. One thing not reported in the media has been the relationship between the aggressive stance of the Gallatin National Forest in closing forest roads and the problems of early access to small fires. The West Yellowstone town meeting produced a heated exchange between some community members and the fire officials.
.. There is still some confusion about what constitutes "official notification" of a fire, the exact time of the notification, and the response made to the notification. Some community members have opined that they reported the fire as early as 9:30 or 10:00 AM. The "official report of a fire" is listed at 1:00 PM.
.. All involved parties acknowledge the difficulties of "finding the fire" and gaining motorized access. You can bet that this will become more of an issue if the fire reaches into Yellowstone National Park.

.. Current incident map:

.. Google Map:
.. One notable thing that happens when a mature lodgepole forest burns is the production of forage and habitat for species that could not live in a forest.
.. After the 1988 fires in Yellowstone a curious feeding behavior was noticed in the Madison Elk Herd (PDF.) Charcoal from the burned bark was being consumed by the elk in quantities never before observed. It's an interesting story.
.. Of course the additional light also lets grasses and forbs proliferate. This makes the elk even happier: - elk hunters too, since the burned area is in the out migration route for part of the Madison Herd.
.. Additionally, the Three Toed Woodpecker is happy. So are voles, squirrels, wildflower photographers, and salvage timber operators. We look forward to seeing how this affects the attitudes of those folks that weren't here in the aftermath of the 1988 fires.