To address hazardous fuel accumulations, many fuel treatments are being implemented in dry forests, but there have been few opportunities to evaluate treatment efficacy in wildfires. We documented the effectiveness of thinning and prescribed burning in the 2006 Tripod Complex fires. Recent fuel treatments burned in the wildfires and offered an opportunity to evaluate if two treatments (thin only and thin and prescribed burn) mitigated fire severity. Fire severity was markedly different between the two treatments. Over 57% of trees survived in thin and prescribed burn (thinRx) units versus 19% in thin only (thin) and 14% in control units. Considering only large-diameter trees (>20 cm diameter at breast height), 73% survived in thinRx units versus 36% and 29% in thin and control units, respectively. Logistic regression modeling demonstrates significant reductions in the log-odds probability of tree death under both treatments with a much greater reduction in thinRx units. Other severity measures, including percent crown scorch and burn severity index, are significantly lower in thinRx units than in thin and control units. This study provides strong quantitative evidence that thinning alone does not reduce wildfire severity but that thinning followed by prescribed burning is effective at mitigating wildfire severity in dry western forests.
Prichard, Susan J.; Peterson, David L.; Jacobson, Kyle. 2010. Fuel treatments reduce the severity of wildfire effects in dry mixed conifer forest, Washington, USA. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 40: 1615-1626.