Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 Wallow Fire: Fire Effects in the Marble Mountains Wilderness

A view across the Wallow Fire in the North Fork of the Salmon River from the Pacific Crest Trail in the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

Since 2012 the Klamath-Siskiyou Fire Reports have been documenting the effects of wildfires occurring throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou region. We ground-truth and document fire suppression actions and their environmental impacts. We are the only organization getting out on the ground and into the heart of the fires, writing detailed reports about how they burned and how fire suppression actions are impacting the wild places we love.

Our 2017 field season is in full swing. This week we hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Etna Summit and down into the North Fork of the Salmon River into the Wallow Fire, part of the Salmon August Complex. The Wallow Fire burned primarily in the Marble Mountains Wilderness and its surrounding roadless areas. The video below demonstrates the fire effects as seen from the PCT in between Etna Summit and Shelly Meadows. All closures have been lifted in the Marble Mountains and now is a great time to get out and see the fire effects firsthand.

As emergency closure areas are lifted and we can get into remote fire areas, Klamath Forest Alliance will hike the fires, hike the firelines and conduct detailed analysis of fire suppression actions. Part of the analysis also includes a lot of time devoted to scouring over agency documents and fire maps. This important work helps inform the broader discussion regarding fire effects and forest management in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and the need to reform fire suppression actions.

Donate to the Klamath-Siskiyou Fire Reports and support detailed analysis of wildfires in the Klamath-Siskiyou! Please indicate your donation is intended for the Fire Reports.

This photo of lower Shelly Meadows, at the headwaters of the North Fork Salmon River, in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, shows how the fire stopped at the meadow's edge. Upper Shelly Meadows supports a rare southern population of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa). Despite some high-severity fire effects in the surrounding forest, the wet meadow habitat where the subalpine fir grows remained unburned.

A view east from the Pacific Crest Trail looking down the Mill Creek watershed in the Mill Creek Roadless Area.  
A natural firebreak on the rocky ridge dropping into Kidder Creek, near Martin and Fisher Lakes on the PCT. Notice how the fire burned up the south-facing slope in montane chapparal, yet the fire sensitive Brewer's spruce on the north-facing slope were either unburned or burned at very low severity.

The high elevation forests of the Marble Mountains are adapted to mixed-severity fire. The true fir stands often burn in a complex mosaic of high, low and moderate-severity fire.  
Fire effects in the Wallow Fire, part of the Salmon August Complex, as seen from the PCT on September 26, 2017. 

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