Fire in Ponderosa Forest
Too often we arrive at black and white judgments: fair weather
is good, fire is bad. However, life is rarely this
For the ponderosa pine, fire is an essential part of its life cycle.
This tree is endowed with thick bark that is somewhat fire resistant.
If it were not for fire, other trees would snuff out a ponderosa's
light from above and draw off its water from below. For communities
of ponderosa pines and those plants and animals that depend on open-canopied
forests, fire is good.
On the other handin the case of the town of Stehekin at the
north end of Lake Chelanfire would destroy homes and other
buildings. Yet, without fire, our food would not be cooked, nor
would our homes be warm. Forests from which we harvest great numbers
of resources would be unhealthy were it not for fire. For humans,
fire is both bad and good.
Forest fires tend to have a cleaning effect in forest communities.
They burn through brush, limbs and logs to clear out 'fuel' that
would otherwise accumulate and create the potential for dramatic
forest-infernos. In Stehekin, forest fires have been suppressed
for many years, thus creating a tinderbox of logs, limbs and brush
in nearby forests. One lightning bolt or match could set off a massive
fire-in-waiting. The National Park Service has embarked on a Forest
Fuel Reduction Plan near Stehekin to help reduce fuel accumulated
in nearby forests. This plan is intended to protect Stehekin residents
from forest fires as well as to protect the biological integrity
of the forests. By both removing accumulated fuels and setting fires
under carefully determined conditions (prescribed fires), the National
Park Service is reducing the risk of catastrophic fire in the Stehekin