Fuel Break Project-Battle Mountain

July 6, 2019

The Ruby Mountain Hotshot crew buggies kick up dust on dirt roads on their way to their next assignment. Photo: Johnny Siren, BLM

The Ruby Mountain Hotshot crew buggies kick up dust on dirt roads on their way to their next assignment. Photo: Johnny Siren, BLM

 

NEAR ALKALI FLATS, NEV.- The Ruby Mountain Hotshots have been working hard near Battle Mountain during this time of low fire activity. In this part of the district, encroaching juniper and overgrowth have joined to create a greater risk of carrying fire, and in an effort to reduce that risk, the hotshots have been working alongside a masticator, a specialized piece of heavy equipment that uses spinning blades to reduce standing vegetation to splinters. With their combined efforts they are building a “fire break”, a gap in fuel continuity, creating a place for firefighters to have an operational advantage in the event of a fire, and improving safety on public lands for both firefighters and the public.

In the foreground, the masticated remains of a pinyon juniper, reduced to chips. In the background, the BLM Battle Mountain District’s masticator operated by Dave Wall. Photo: Johnny Siren, BLM

In the foreground, the masticated remains of a pinyon juniper, reduced to chips. In the background, the BLM Battle Mountain District’s masticator operated by Dave Wall. Photo: Johnny Siren, BLM

Each of these resources are working within a scope of work called a "prescription", which details how to tell if a tree should be removed, "limbed up" (a term meaning to trim low branches to reduce the likelihood of fire to climb into the canopy of the tree), or simply left as-is. In this part of the canyon, the prescription called for treatment of 300 feet from the road on either side, and further down the canyon, where the walls were steeper, 150 feet to either side of the road. Here we see how the limbs trimmed from the vegetation are stacked in "bone piles" to dry, kept some distance away from live trees, to be burned in the winter when the fire danger is low. These fuel reduction tactics are designed to manipulate fire behavior if it reaches the treated area, making managing the fire easier for firefighters. These projects represent just one of the many ways that firefighters take advantage of periods of low fire activity to put public lands and communities in a better position for when the fires arrive.

Limbs and pieces of pinyon juniper stacked into bone piles. After letting these piles cure, firefighters will burn them in the winter when the fire danger is low, further reducing the fuel within the fuel break. Photo: Johnny Siren, BLM.

Limbs and pieces of pinyon juniper stacked into bone piles. After letting these piles cure, firefighters will burn them in the winter when the fire danger is low, further reducing the fuel within the fuel break. Photo: Johnny Siren, BLM.