Table of Contents
The USDA Forest Service, in conjunction with the UC Berkeley Center for Forestry, and other partners, is sponsoring a series of hazardous fuels treatment demonstrations (demos) at strategic locations in central and southern California. Target audiences include fire agencies, natural resource managers, electric utilities, water conservation districts, homeowner associations, fire safe councils, county and city planning departments, fuels treatment contractors, and other stakeholders. Treatment demos will be one week in duration at each location (three to four locations total) and will provide equipment vendors the opportunity to demonstrate innovative equipment and techniques that might not be currently utilized in a local area. Equipment and techniques used for the demos will be monitored for effectiveness, efficiency, cost, and resource impacts (e.g., soil compaction and disturbance). Once completed, results of the demos will be synthesized and disseminated to previously identified target audiences and others.
Objectives and Outcomes
The primary objective of the fuels treatment demos is to raise awareness about different hazardous fuel treatment alternatives and provide key stakeholders with up-to-date information regarding resource impacts, efficiencies, and cost of fuels treatment equipment and techniques. Expected short-term outcomes include improved ability of government agencies and partners to assess, plan and budget for future fuels treatment projects, heightened cooperator awareness about equipment options and impacts, and improved ability of local contractors to make informed business decisions about what equipment to buy or lease. Targeted long-term project outcomes include improved wildland and watershed health, enhanced ability to defend communities and other infrastructure from wildfires, mitigation of air emissions impacts (including GHG releases during wildfires), improved reduction in hazardous fuel accumulation, reduced site impacts, potential increase in acres treated, and local job retention.
Fuels Treatment Technology Innovation and Improvement
Equipment vendors have continued to refine the design of vegetation treatment systems to reduce high fire hazard material and resource impacts. These include promising technologies that both remove or rearrange (e.g., masticate) excess vegetation from challenging topography and facilitate processing into value-added uses, such as low-value logs suitable for pallets and firewood, as well as feedstock for soil amendment, landfill cover, water treatment filters, or bioenergy. The fuel treatment demos will provide equipment vendors the opportunity to demonstrate innovative techniques and equipment that may not yet be deployed in the region and an opportunity for project planners, specialists, and agency partners to evaluate local effectiveness and impacts.
Previous Fuels Treatment Trials
Many research studies have looked at the mechanical treatment of hazardous fuels. However, very few have included the opportunity to observe an array of different treatment technologies in the same location, interface with knowledgeable and experienced operators, and obtain a follow-up summary about results and performance. One of the few known examples was a project involving a series of fuels treatment trials conducted in three western states (Washington, Idaho, and Oregon) in 2002 (Dry Forest Mechanized Fuels Treatment Trials, TSS Consultants/The Yankee Group). These trials earned numerous positive reviews because of their focus on local situations and partner groups, and they provided information not previously available about effectiveness and costs. Similar trials conducted in central and southern California would be focused on unique site conditions and vegetation management in this region and the ability of the most suitable equipment or processes to address excess fuel buildup.