Fires of Winter

By Robert Hudson Westover
US Department of Agriculture
February 16, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: United States

Snow melts and becomes water, and the newly heated water becomes vapor as piles of dry wood and other plant debris start to burn slowly when firefighters, one after another, dip their drip torches. Winter is the ideal time of year for pile burning on national forests and it’s one of the many ways the USDA Forest Service works to remove excess debris and lower fire risks to communities in advance of wildfire activity each year. As winter conditions continue across the US, some national forests create hundreds of “slash piles.” These piles are waiting to be prescribed burned because, throughout the year, fuels reduction and hazardous tree removal projects have been completed. Fuels reduction involves mechanical and hand thinning, meaning that dead, dying or excess trees are removed to reduce forest density and improve forest health. 

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