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Its a promising tool this idea of prescribed burning to defuel forests and help restore ecosystem health But its risky business too and smoke clouds public acceptance I THOUGHT FIRE SEASON HAD ENDED BUT THE SCENT OF PINE SMOKE IN MY NOSTRILS LATE LAST OCTOBER TOLD ME SOMETHING DIFFERENT Deep in Oregons ponderosa paradise on Winema National Forest my wife Maurine and I had just finished flagging a new interpretive trail as Forest volunteers As we drove a remote road just east of Crater Lake National Park we smelled the smoke Then we saw flames We relaxed a bit when we spotted a yellow-shirted hard-hatted fire crew from the Chemult Ranger district They were matter-of-factly tending flank and back lines see illustration page 16 on a low-intensity ground fire theyd set earlier It gradually burned through bitterbrush and light woody debris mimicking the natural understory fires of old and thus protecting a stand of mature ponderosas The fire was moving ionals throughout the US In other words the present emerging technology is a lot more parochial meaning practical than political - a refreshing thought Honey your fire has escaped Theres no guarantee youll not get a big rip see terminology sidebar page 57 says a Forest Service fire officer on the eastern seaboard When youre messing with fire theres always a chance one will escape echoes his counterpart in Californias Sierras The fuels are tricky adds Ron Meyers who directs prescribed fires for The Nature Conservancy from his base in Florida Such concerns are real Paul Tine acting Forest Service fuels specialist for the sprawling eastern US region remembers well what he calls the lowest day Ive ever had in my 18-year career As fire boss on a 40-acre prescribed burn on Minnesotas Superior National Forest in the 80s he had taken a little time off to attend a fire seminar leaving his mop-up crew in good hands after about nine days of solid progress
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