Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mussigbrod Fire: 10 Years Later

Still today some areas burned hot enough to sterilize the soil. As this photo shows virtually no plants or trees have regenerated; estimates run as long a century or more before recovery can be expected. 

Other areas show dramatic regeneration, not only trees but wildflowers, grasses and forbes are lush and green.

But in many areas beyond the green remains a moonscape; nothing or next to nothing growing.

The creek corridors within the burn are green and lush looking but...in some cases looks are deceiving.

As shown in this photo of Tie Creek; Once a healthy, vibrant mountain creek full of life today much of the bottom gravel and rocks are impacted with suffocating silt, the result of runoff from the hotspots within the burn. Here we found very few trout; on the other hand Johnson Creek just over the hill appears to full of trout. Unscientific I know but to me the results are telling. A classic mosaic burn some spots got hit hard others fared pretty well considering.

Still more good news is some big old boys such as this giant old growth Doug Fir did survive and should provide a welcome seed source for future tree growth.

Some areas are currently being salvage logged; why the hell it took so long is more than I know. No doubt the dastardly deeds of a few whackos whose twisted brains think even harvesting burned trees is somehow evil...

Lightning strikes the night of July 31 ignited fires near Mussigbrod Lake, 12 miles northwest of Wisdom. The Mussigbrod Fire burned largely unabated until snow put them out in late September. Nearly 85,000 acres were torched, including 4 structures and threatened homes on the East Fork of the Bitterroot River east of Sula.

Eventually the fire merged with fires in the Bitterroot and formed the so-called Valley Complex burned a total of nearly 215,000 acres. The Valley Complex had the distinction of not only being Montana's largest during the summer of 2000, but the nation's largest as well. More than 1700 fire fighters, 80 engines, 12 bulldozers, 24 water tenders and 9 helicopters were involved. Despite all the VC consumed 66 homes by far the most costly Montana fire in recent years.

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