Fire Behavior and Effects Relating to Suppression, Fuel Treatments, and Protected Areas on the Antelope Complex Wheeler Fire
The Fire Behavior Assessment Team
Jo Ann Fites, Mike Campbell, Alicia Reiner, Todd Decker
August • 2007
- Treated areas had significantly reduced fire behavior and tree and soil impacts compared to untreated areas.
- Treated areas were utilized during suppression along several flanks of the fire for both direct attack with dozers and handcrews, as well as for indirect attack with burn operations.
- Treated areas that burned during the first two days—when suppression resources were limited and fire behavior more uniformly intense— had reduced effects compared to untreated areas. In some areas, these treated sites had moderate to high severity effects.
- A Defensible Fuel Profile Zone treated area provided a safe escape route for firefighters and Fire Behavior Assessment Team members when the column collapsed and two other escape routes were cut off by the fire.
- Observations of fire behavior during the first two days suggest that large untreated areas allowed the fire to build momentum and contributed to increased fire behavior (rate of spread and intensity). Thus, the influence of these untreated areas made it more likely that suppression resources could be overwhelmed and threatened treated areas and diminished their effectiveness in thwarting fire spread and intensity.
- Satellite imagery reveals that protected areas (owl and goshawk nest stands and core habitat) had significantly greater tree severity compared to untreated or treated areas.
- Consider treating larger portion of landscapes to effectively reduce the likelihood of fires gaining momentum and increasing in behavior to a point where suppression and treatments become less effective.
- Consider treating protected areas to enable these sites to withstand subsequent fire with lesser effects and prevent them from contributing to greater and increased fire behavior across the adjacent landscape.