RSS

WinterFest 2016 LOL

 

It was cold! But beautiful and perfect lighting.  I had to take a few moments to record the event for your enjoyment.  Sorry about the crusty old timber faller ruining the scenes LOL.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Current Forest Policies cause Increased Fires and Smoke

IMG_1090All the current interest in forest fire management and forest management in general is giving me an interest in sharing my experience as an ex-logger and current fire fighter.
     Many of you do not realize how it’s going out here in fire fighter land. To properly explain, I have to lay the ground work and unless you have an interest, such as the current smoke inhalation issues in Oregon towns.
     Lets start with a local fire in 2002, near Sisters, called the B&B fire. It burned over 90,000 acres here in Oregon. It was never logged except for a token 1% of 1/100th of the area burned by the fire. A logging plan was presented by the Forest Service to log 6800 acres but was shot down by environmentalists. You might have noticed the blackened forest of dead trees (called “snags” in logger lingo) on the way over the Santiam Pass on road 20, Oregon.  It stretches from Mt Washington to Mt Jefferson and laps over on both the east and west sides of the Cascades.  You can drive for about 15 – 20 minutes from one edge to the other on hwy 20 the area involved is vast.
     At this point in the story we come to a pertinent fact that enemies of logging use to leverage their idealism to maximum effect. The area is high altitude mixed fir forests and as such it deteriorates swiftly after a fire. It is basically worthless on the market after about a year. Environmental lawsuits often take several years to litigate with the logging held up in the meantime. The Forest Service basically has no interest in fighting the environmental lobby to log the complete area after a fire and so we end up with these snag forests.  This presents a new logistic to fire fighting and because of that, increased smoke from fires in the Northwest.
     Interestingly, I fought on a fire this spring, the Sheep Springs fire, which was in the area burned by the old B&B complex with it’s extreme firefighter hazard of a forest of old burned dead and downed trees.
The still upright snags are a very real overhead hazard for the firefighters. Every year there are fire fighter fatalities from falling snags.  Also there is a large quantity of the snags which have fallen to the ground.  The downed trees are heavy fuels which are laying among the 15 yr old regrowth of forest and are receptive to fire activity. The new growth of mixed fir in this burned area is doomed to be burned up once again, and repeatedly until no burned snags remain, standing or downed and the forest will become “cleaned up”.
     Also one must consider changed firefighting techniques due to all the overhead hazards presented by the blackened forests of Mordor  (Faller joke -“One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The great Eye is ever watchful.”)
 IMG_0032
LOL. Appropriate I think.
     Due to the overhead hazards of putting out fires in snags that have been twice burned, a certain retreat has been the choice on many of the fires I have been on in the past few years in this area.  This style of fire fighting is called the “Big Box” method. This is where you pull back to existing roads and convenient fire breaks to build fire lines to try and hold the fire. It is a bit safer for fire fighters, but it increases the acreage of the fire exponentially.
In previous times, before the snag forest hazards caused by the restraint of logging, firefighters would “go direct” on the fire, building fire lines along the flaming edge of the fire while it is much smaller. As a result, the fire I was on this spring was a 2 acre fire originally that became a 700 acre fire under the “Big Box” scenario, and this was just a little fire early in the year.
     Another fire I was on a few years ago, the Shadow Lake fire,  started in the Mt Washington wilderness area.  Forest policy is to let these wilderness fires burn unrestrained under a term called “fire use”.  It is my understanding that this is common use in designated wilderness areas and essentially means that, since logging is no longer an option for cleaning up the forest, fire is used basically to do the same thing, and is useful for burning out the underbrush and thinning out the forest. The problem is that the 200 acre fire on the Mt Washington wilderness was over 15000 acres by the time they got done with the “Big Box” method under the reasoning of firefighter safety with the added benefit of “cleaning” up the forest.
     I watched in dismay as some very fine hidden campgrounds along some small high country lakes became waste. No one is going to want to camp there for a long time – like decades.
     Fire use is very unpredictable and much of the forest becomes “nuked” to white ash, including large patches of “plantations” or many years old reforestation efforts by loggers which contain young trees – the future forest.
     You can imagine from the above descriptions the difference in tonnage of bio fuel fiber going in to the air as smoke under the old “direct” fire fighting method vs the newer “big box” method. The difference is exponential.  We saw the visible results of that this year in Oregon.
     It is my opinion, based on hearsay and emperical data gathered by associating with fire fighter personnel, information obtained at briefings, and the many discussions that are to be had on the fires, that this big box fire use “cleaning” of the forest is in favor among fire management people at this current time because of the perceived forest benefits and the increased firefighter safety. It is adapting to the new reality of the hazards of old burns that have not been cleaned up by logging. Had the timber been logged in time for marketability, the new growth would not be threatened in the same way for re burning a short decade or two later, and would be fire resilient without the dead fuels, both standing and laying on the ground, that are so abundant these days. In my opinion this fire season was unnecessary and man caused by misguided forest management that is not the fault of the Forest Service per se but court mandated due to environmentalist abuse of the court system and due to lack of will by all involved to resist those court mandates and abuses. It is the locals who suffer, both from the increased smoke, destruction of local forests, and loss of logging and forest management jobs.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Breaking In Logging Essay

Breaking In:
 
My daughter has noted that my logger lingo leaves her with glazed over eyes at all the new terms. Hopefully I can change that.
 
First of all I have noticed that mechanical brains have an easier time understanding my explanations and stories. But I should be able to explain it so that everyone can understand.
 
So when I started working logging was fairly big in the area and had been for many years. It was on the decline – but nobody knew it yet. Well maybe some of the CEOs of bigger logging companies like Weyerhouser and Georgia-Pacific. Maybe even Pope & Talbot. But it was still going well so I chose to pursue logging and specifically within that industry, timberfalling, which my Dad was doing and was very good at.
Being a good Dad, he tried to advise me against it as it was dangerous and he probably wanted better for me, but I persevered and he got me a trainee position. He was my teacher. I was in the process of being “broken in” as a timberfaller. I got the best quality training as a result of being trained by my dad. I worked for over 10 yrs before being injured with a broken leg which is a fairly decent safety record for the times.
 
Back then timber fallers came in a “set “which was a team of two. One would be the “Faller “who cut down the trees with help from the “Second Faller” who also filled the position of “Bucker”. The second Faller assisted by watching the far side of the tree being felled and pounding wedges etc. Once the tree was “felled” or was on the ground in a horizontal position rather than standing up reaching for the sky :-), then the faller turned into a “marker”, who’s duties included measuring and marking the tree into log lengths for the Mill. When his tape got to the proper length he would use his sharp falling axe to chop a notch in the bark.
The mill would give you a document of preferred lengths of logs for you to cut the tree into before it was transported to the mill yard. The second Faller then became the “bucker “whose job it was to use his chainsaw to cut the felled tree into shorter log lengths.
 
The old-growth timber that we worked in often was up to 300 feet tall. Of course once the tree was felled it might break up shorter than that on the steep rough terrain. The logistics of pulling a tree that size and length up to a narrow road, getting it on a truck, and hauling it down the winding logging roads required that it be chopped up into shorter, more manageable sections of the tree which we called “logs”. Also there were weight limitations on the trucks and loading equipment which determined log lengths that were permissible.
 
The biggest size of timber that I worked on was on Weyerhaeuser ground on the Calapooya river between Vida and Sweet Home on the back roads. I had been working for about a month with my dad. The biggest tree felled was a Doug Fir that was 9 feet and 9 inches in diameter inside of the bark. The first log length was 16 feet and 6 inches long. I made I think about eight of those maybe 10 before the tree was small enough to make longer ones. Then the next length that was a peeler I think 26’6” long.
 
A “peeler” was a log that the mill valued very highly because the grain of the wood was nice enough to be peeled into veneer on a lathe like machine, which was used to make high quality plywood.
 
When we were standing up on the road above the unit and looking down on that tree which dad laid out very nicely without breaking any wood to speak of, the logger commented that it looked like a sideways stack of Silver dollars because of all of the short logs that I had made. The first log was half as big in diameter as it was long so I guess that’s kind of what looked like a Silver dollar from up on the road. Plus it probably looked like money to the logger. Those old loggers were always throwing out interesting phrases like that and I wished I knew more of them.
 
We got “snowed out” on that job by a sudden storm which dropped several feet of snow over night. We had covered up our tools with loose bark just in case that might happen since it was getting close to winter. Now we had to go rescue them so dad rented a snowmobile for the weekend. Weyerhaeuser usually had their roads locked with gates. It was not locked when we went through so we went on up to the job and struggled over to the tools over snow-covered logs. Dad fell into a hole in between a couple of logs and I became the yarder and hauled him out of there. A “yarder “is the machine used to pull the logs up the steep mountainside to the road with an inch and a quarter cable.
 
That was when I got my best complement from my dad. When we got home he told my mom that his oldest son had become a man. On our way out of there some ambitious Weyerhaeuser control freak had locked the gate. The gate was made out of railroad iron which looked pretty stout but we could not make it out on the other roads because of the snow at higher elevations in the mountain back roads, so it looked like we were going to wait for the weekend to be over to get out. There was a flaw however in the construction of the gate. They had made the swing post of the gate about 10 feet high which gave us some leverage. So dad backed up to the gate and hooked his 20 foot long cable choker to the top of the gate post and gunned his truck. That railroad iron gate post snapped in half so easy it was amazing. Dad drug the gate out of the way and we continued on home. I was officially “broken in”.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Some Modern Logger Equipment

I took a couple of videos on the job recently to show the Feller-buncher and the Delimber just for fun.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Flaming Snag Is Felled by a 62 yr Old TimberFaller/Firefighter

I really did not want to do this assignment, but did it anyway.  I could not breath very well in there.  It was like working in a smoky hot oven with wind blowing smoke and sawdust in your eyes but you had to keep your stinging eyes open to keep a visual on the tree – your life depended upon it.

You may notice I back-barred the undercut.  This is when you use the wrong side of the bar and don’t use the side with the dogs that is made for digging in to the wood.

The reason was it is easier to not bend over that way and I could focus more on watching the tree up high where I was worried it might burn in two and send down some burning chunks.  If you have visual on a catastrophic event, you may barely have time to move out of harm’s way.

I also was moving my bar in and out while cutting the undercut.  This is because the snag is rotten and sometimes a rotten snag will tip over while you are putting in the undercut before you are ready for a more controlled felling situation such as when you are able to put in a back cut.  By moving my bar in and out of the undercut slightly, I can feel more easily if my saw is being pinched and get it out before the wild action of the rotten snag occurs.
Also when I was running out of there after the tree started to go, I instinctively started to set down my saw to give a little more speed to the escape procedure but then realized I would be setting it in the flames and was afraid it would burn up so I held on to it. When you see that part it was just a quick move with setting the saw almost down and then aborting that action, but just in that moment while I was making my run for safety, I realized that by not setting down the saw I increased my personal risk slightly by slowing me down with the cumbersome saw while running away. I compared that risk with the more probable occurrence of setting my saw on fire or melting something and made my choice on the run.  All is well that ends well.

 

I hope you find all this interesting as well as the excitement of the video :).

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 18, 2015 in Fire Stories, Uncategorized

 

Darvin’s Scary Tree

I narrate this firefighting video pretty well, I think and might enter it into next years Film Fest competition locally.  I was falling Timber with Darvin, my falling partner who cut down this tree.  I think he might have been a little nervous, but he did it anyway, which is what we get paid to do. We are allowed to turn down an “assignment” on the fire, and we do but not too often – probably less than 1%.  This type of tree which instills a bit of trepidation is more rare on the fires and we probably turn down somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 to 10% of these type of trees.   We call it “calculated risk” where we think the odds are in our favor of surviving the assignment.

Timber fallers are rather fearless.  It is not exactly that because the fear is in the background tugging away, but it is more of a thrill and dare-devil mentality.  I have been called a “cowboy” by a smoke-jumper and most firefighters think of smoke-jumpers as cowboys.  Smoke-jumpers are firefighters who parachute out of airplanes onto a fire in remote locations to sometimes single-handedly put out a fire.  The word “cowboy” refers to gratuitous risk taking.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 18, 2015 in Fire Stories

 

My Bio for the COFF 2015 Video “Suicide Cut”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Uncategorized