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New technology for fuel breaks and green strips in urban interface and wildland areas

Author(s): Jennifer L. Vollmer
Year Published: 2005

Threat from wildfire can be greatly minimized through proactive efforts that reduce and slow spread through use of green strips or fuel breaks, and decrease fire volatility by reducing fuel load. This results in greater safety to fire fighters and protection to key urban interface areas or wildlife habitat. The fight against western wildfire is typically reactive as suppression, with splintered efforts toward vegetation management. Annual grass management is often over looked in prescriptions for firebreaks. Annual grass, such as cheatgrass, is a fine fuel responsible for fire ignition, enhanced spread and increased volatility. These annual weeds are often present or invade western brush/grass or PJ/grass communities after fuel break development. A new technical advance in fuel break and green strip production is to apply Plateau® or Journey® herbicide, to control annual grass growth and encourage growth of desirable fire retardant vegetation after brush or tree removal. Studies using BehavePlus indicate that when annual grass was removed by herbicide to release perennial bunch grasses, a reduction of flame height of up to 90% was possible. Model results show the herbicide treated areas reduced flame height from levels where aerial assault is required to the level, 1 meter(m), where hand control is effective and spread slowed to less than 1.5 miles/hr. Thus indicating, that a fire moving across a herbicide enhanced firebreak could be controlled by hand and the area easily evacuated. Demonstrations with this new technology have successfully stopped fire spread and reduced risk to communities and fire fighters. This same technology can reduce the danger to fire fighters, the number of acres burned and save critical habitat areas.

Citation: Vollmer, Jennifer L. 2005. New technology for fuel breaks and green strips in urban interface and wildland areas. In: Butler, B.W.; Alexander, M.E., eds. Eighth International Wildland Firefighter Safety Summit - Human factors - 10 years later; 2005 April 26-28; Missoula, MT, Hot Springs, SD: The International Association of Wildland Fire.
Topic(s): Invasive Species, Management Approaches, Wildland Urban Interface, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order
Ecosystem(s): Juniper woodland, Sagebrush steppe, Lower montane/foothills/valley grassland
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
NRFSN number: 11039
FRAMES RCS number: 12477
Record updated: May 24, 2018