The Rim Fire is a treasure trove of information for fire scientists

Sep 3, 2013

The catastrophic Rim Fire, which has burned about 343 square miles in and around Yosemite, will provide abundant information for fire scientists to study the effects of forest management techniques, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

The key question, the story said, is what happened on Aug. 22 and 23, when a 200-foot wall of flames burned almost 90,000 acres.

"Almost half of this very, very large fire happened in just two days," said Max Moritz, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. "If you are a scientist, that is very interesting."

Leading up to the fire, Scott Stephens, professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, was in the area of the Rim Fire with a four-person research team measuring tree diameters and densities. They found as many as 400 trees per acre on the land, compared with 60 and 90 trees per acre in 1911. There was also between 30 and 40 tons of woody debris per acre on the forest floor, compared with 6 to 8 tons 92 years ago, Stephens said.

"We know the last fire in that area was in about 1905. That's 100 years without fire," Stephens said. "If you don't clear trees and brush and do some prescribed burning, you are eventually going to get a very closed forest that is very dense."

The U.S. Forest Service reported today, Sept. 3, that the Rim Fire is 70 percent contained.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist