Fire Management

Current Fuel Maintenance Projects

Clear Creek Fuel Break

Fuels and Vegetation Management Activities

The purpose of the Clear Creek Fuel Break project is to:

This project proposes to treat 354 acres of fuel break by reducing the fuel loading and arrangement of fuels on Clear Creek fuel break. Vegetation manipulation on the fuel break has been/will be accomplished to provide defensible space along ridgelines to widths of 300-500 feet maximum. Fuels have been reduced by means of hand and mechanical treatments with the intent of following up with prescription fire treatments. The fire treatment will be the primary source of fuel reduction. Clear Creek is located 10 miles from the Foothill communities of Alta Dena and La Canada, and located near the historical Mt Wilson Observatory and Communication Site. The fuel break separates the Arroyo Seco and Tujunga watersheds.

In FY16 Joint Chiefs funding was used to let a contract for piling fuels on the Clear Creek fuel break. We are moving forward with prescribed burning the piles in FY17.

In FY17 Joint Chiefs funding will be used to finish up the Clear Creek fuel break with another contract.


Tanbark Fuelbreak Maintenance Project 

The Angeles National Forest proposes to treat a total of 787 acres of vegetation within the Tanbark Fuelbreak 936-acre project area. This fuel break represents a strategic series of ridgelines that separate the backcountry and wilderness areas on the San Gabriel River Ranger District from the wildland-urban-interface areas of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, and Claremont.

There is a need to manage the vegetation along this fuel break area to assure the viability of this wildland fire control feature to:

The fuel break system extends from Sunset Peak west and south along the main ridge to Johnstone Peak, where it splits, with one fork following the ridge system and Forest Road 1N17, and a second fork following the ridge and Forest Road 1N15.

The proposed action includes mechanical treatment using tracked equipment (masticators and bulldozers with crushing apparatus), prescribed burning, and hand clearing.

Read the Full Environmental Assessment

An Overview

Fire crews on the Angeles National Forest - San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (ANF - SGMNM) are continuing to carry out our fall/winter prescribed fire projects with a planned 50 acres

image of overhead look at a burn area
An overhead view of a section of the Tanbark Fuels Project.

of broadcast burns in the San Gabriel River Ranger District (when fire is applied to most of the surface vegetation) planned for winter 2017.

 

In addition, several slash pile burn projects remain a priority and will be burned when and as long as conditions remain favorable.

 

Planned ignitions will begin when weather and fuel conditions become optimal for achieving management objectives while keeping smoke impacts to surrounding communities to a minimum. Weather and fuel conditions are being closely monitored and the prescribed burning program will continue as long as conditions remain favorable.

Why Are Prescribed Fires Ignited on the Wildlands?

Fire has always played an integral role in the varied ecosystems on the ANF - SGMNM. Many species of vegetation require occasional fires for their health and sustainability. Over the past 100 years, humans have altered this natural vegetation management tool by suppressing wildfires because of values such as homes, great landscape views, and water sources. The ANF - SGMNM is reintroducing fire back into many of these ecosystems as a management tool to accomplish numerous objectives.

Prescribed fires, whether broadcast burning or pile burning, combined with mechanical and/or hand thinning treatments, are effective land management tools frequently used to reduce the accumulation of hazardous fuels, including old and dense vegetation. Minimizing hazardous fuels reduces fire intensity and the risk of catastrophic wildland fires. In turn, this action minimizes the risk to firefighter and public safety. Additional benefits include improved wildlife habitat and long-term sustainability of healthier ecosystems and the services they provide.

 

How Are Prescribed Burns Conducted?

Public safety is always the first consideration of all fire management operations. Each prescribed burn has a detailed prescribed fire plan developed from the comprehensive planning efforts conducted long before project activities are initiated. Each prescribed burn has a detailed prescribed fire plan developed from the comprehensive planning efforts conducted long before the project activities are initiated. The burn plan provides guidelines for what objectives are desired, when and where to burn, under what conditions to burn, acceptable fire behavior, organization, contingency plans for fire control, smoke management, and public concerns. Containment lines that may utilize roads and natural features are then determined and established. Finally, highly trained fire management personnel carefully apply fire to the treatment areas and closely monitor the fire’s progress to ensure 1) the fire stays exactly where it is intended and 2) the fire is meeting or will meet, the planned objectives. Frequent adjustments to ignition patterns are sometimes needed to ensure the best opportunity for project objectives to be met. Crews remain on site long after the flames have subsided to ensure the containment lines are secure.

Broadcast vs. Pile Burns

Fire managers on the ANF - SGMNM utilize two primary prescribed fire techniques. Broadcast burning involves the widespread application of fire to ground vegetation during a time when that vegetation is readily available to burn but not dry and volatile. Spring and Fall are the most common times for this type of burning.

Pile burning is utilized as a result of both hand and mechanical thinning operations.

image of fire burning in tanbark burn area
Broadcast burns aim to treat a whole area and not just a pile.

Crews cut small trees and limb up live trees to reduce the ladder fuels (vegetation that connects surface fuels to trees). Piles are hand or machine stacked into strategic locations so the subsequent fire won’t ignite trees or other vegetation.

 

Fire managers typically burn these piles when the area has adequate snow cover. This nearly eliminates chances for ground fuels to ignite and provides for relatively easy containment. Fall and Winter are the most common times for this type of burning.

What Can I Expect to See?

After the burn is completed, the average eye might see the area as simply black and barren. But take a moment to look closer. A quick examination of a grassy area will likely reveal the unburned bottoms of grass stems now free to grow uninhibited by years of dead grass layers that may have been robbing the plant of water, nutrients, and light. Prescribed burns are used to thin out ladder fuels and overly dense patches of small trees. In some cases, one might see larger numbers of small trees and ladder fuels which have been killed by the prescribed fire. Prescribed fire is also designed to kill unhealthy and often bug infested trees which are detrimental to the health of the ecosystem. In those cases, one might see larger swaths of fire-killed trees that will restart the natural progression of the ecosystem. Our suggestion is to watch the landscape rebound from this natural change agent and revel in the fact that you are witness to an event that has shaped this land for thousands of years.

What About the Smoke?

Smoke from prescribed fires can often be seen for many miles. Fire management specialists work diligently to adhere to smoke management regulations set forth by the South Coast Air Quality Managment District

The primary objective when land managers conduct fuels reduction projects is to reduce the possibility of large wildfires which can, among other things, generate dangerous amounts of smoke. The amount and duration of lingering smoke created from small-scale prescribed fires are minimal compared to the numerous dense smoke-filled days of many summers, due to massive wildfires throughout the west.

Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information view the AQMD Current Air Quality Map.

 

The ANF - SGMNM regularly posts Tweets about our prescribed fires. Follow us on Twitter: @Angeles_NF for updates. Look for and use the specific hashtags for each burn.

  • Provide for firefighter safety through use of the fuel break as a strategic and tactical barrier to fire spread
  • Reduce the potential of large fire spreading to the Arroyo Seco watershed from other locations on the forest
    • Provide for firefighter safety through use of the fuel break as a strategic and tactical barrier to fire spread
    • Reduce the potential of catastrophic fire spreading from the wildland-urban-interface into the Angeles National Forest
    • Limit fires spreading out of the Forest into the developed interface areas of the San Gabriel Valley