San Bernardino National Forest Hosts Fuels Demo

By Gerrelaine Alcordo and Paul Robbins Jr.

A woman in a hard hat speaks to men in hard hats in a forest.

SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST, California - U.S. Forest Service personnel use a variety of tools to start fires, but always in an effort to prevent larger fires from occurring.

The Mountaintop District of the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) hosted a Fuels Treatment Demonstration for more than 40 visitors of varying agencies, Oct. 16, showcasing new technologies in mechanical treatment of hazardous fuels. Mechanical treatment reduces the amount of vegetation in an area which has built up to dangerous levels, or changes the arrangement of these fuels to lessen the likelihood of catastrophic fires.

“The benefit of hosting the demo is that it provided us the opportunity to discuss our hazardous fuels reduction treatments within the San Bernardino National Forest,” said Steven Alarid, a member of the Enterprise Program Team, SBNF. “We had a great platform to showcase our mechanical treatment prescriptions as they relate to historic fire behavior and vegetation structure.”

Vendors displayed mechanical treatment equipment like drip torches, terra torches, plastic sphere dispensers and hand tools. The hand tools are used for piling brush, pruning lower branches of trees, and creating fuel breaks to encourage the right kind of fire. Mechanical treatment can be used on its own or together with torches for prescribed burning to change how wildfire behaves. As a result of this type of treatment, when a fire does burn through the area, it is less destructive, less costly and easier to control.

While visitors inspected the gear, fire personnel shared their experiences with wildfire effects in both treated and untreated areas. Their talks highlighted the safer working conditions, and conservation of infrastructure and resources that result from fuels treatment efforts.

“The Forest took the opportunity to promote our intention of increasing broadcast burning operations in the future,” said Dan O’Connor, fuels officer for the San Gabriel River Ranger District, Angeles National Forest. Broadcasting burning is controlled application of fire to fuels, under specified environmental conditions that allow fire to be confined to a predetermined area, producing the fire characteristics required to attain planned fire treatment and resource management objectives.

Vendors and equipment were provided by Caterpillar Inc., FECON, FAE-Prime Tech, Takeuchi, and Timco, with attendance from multiple national forests, CALFIRE units, Ventura County, Big Bear Fire Authority, and a wide range of professionals from private industry and the local community. The demonstration was the second of a three-stop California tour, sponsored by the USFS, University of California Center for Forestry, TSS Consultants, and other partners.

The final stop will be Nov. 20, at Santa Rosa Indian Reservation, Mountain Center, California.