University of California
Fire in California

Mechanical

Mechanical treatments pulverize large continuous patches of fuel to reduce the volume and continuity of material. This breaks up the pathway available for fire spread while reducing conditions during wildfire; allowing firefighters an opportunity to direct action against the flame.

 

Mechanical treatments can be applied as either mastication or chipping treatments. Both treatments shred woody material, but mastication leaves residue on-site while chipping collects the particles for transportation off site. The material can then be manufactured into wood products or converted into energy in a controlled manner. Material left on-site naturally decomposes or incinerates during wildfire to create higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Similar to hand treatments, mechanical treatments can target specific areas and vegetation while excluding areas of concern. In addition, mechanical treatment is easily scalable to large areas (>30 acres) with little added cost.

 

How to Implement?

There are a variety of equipment configurations for mechanical treatment based on machine size, power, and type. While certain configurations are better adapted to shrub dominated or tree dominated regions, most will achieve the same outcome.

 

When considering the use of heavy machinery, it is important to ensure all permitting is met. While mechanical treatment does not inherently require permitting, ancillary work including road repair or watercourse alteration will require an environmental review.  To ensure compliance with the regulatory requirements, consult with a local resource professional.
 

Limitations

Feasibility of mechanical treatments depend on the terrain condition.

  • Steeper slopes will result in higher costs for treatment and decreased production time.
  • Fuel densities will drive the cost and efficiency of mechanical treatment. Higher densities are required for a cost effective chipping program to ensure adequate material can be generated for sale.
  • Operating period is limited by weather. Wet conditions where mechanized equipment may damage the road surface will restrict operation, as well as periods with high fire danger.
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