In his Feb. 16 editorial warning against the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness, Tom Kress stated incorrectly that the 2002 Biscuit Fire destroyed the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and ultimately consumed 500,000 acres. The perimeter of the Biscuit Fire was 500,000 acres, but the fire did not burn 500,000 acres.
U.S. Forest Services satellite data and post-event analysis shows 19.7% of the area, 100,000 acres, within the perimeter was unburned; 41%, 205,000 acres, burned at low intensity, leaving green trees standing while clearing underbrush; 22.6%, 113,000 burned at moderate intensity, leaving many trees; 15.7%, 78,500 acres burned at a high intensity. The highest intensity was also shown to be those areas that had previously been “actively managed.” That means 60%, or 305,000 acres of trees, were left relatively unharmed. This seems a far cry from destruction.
Those who would say that wilderness protections increased the effects of the fire ignore the high severity mortality that occurred in the dense fiber plantations surrounding the wilderness and the impacts of Forest Service fire fighting. The agency’s 2003 post-fire assessment found the severe fire activity closest to the Illinois Valley communities was the result of intentional backfiring and the fire that consumed several homes and structures around Oak Flat was started as intentional burnout.
I believe our county officials should express themselves publicly and often, with the intent of informing our citizens. But Mr. Kress’ message, in this case, seems intended to feed fear rather than face facts.