Wildfires can heat the air to over 1,000 degrees and generate fire whirls with the force of tornadoes. Not much stands in their way.
John Engelien is one of the exceptions.
Enter August 2013. It’s one of Oregon’s worst fire seasons on record. Over 288 square miles of the state are in flames, including a new fire that has just started west of John’s ranch and woodland.
Wind and dry air propelled the fire toward John’s property—a collision officials described as potentially catastrophic. Then the unlikely happened. As flames licked at the trunks of Douglas firs and devoured any brush on the ground, the fire slowed, fizzled, then stopped.
John’s forest isn’t like most. He’s a conservationist. His forest management plan includes thinning unhealthy tree, brush removal, and ‘lop and scatter’—a technique that involves cutting debris into smaller pieces and scattering it to speed decomposition. All these practices support healthy forest ecosystems and promote wildfire resistance.
Combined with assistance from fire fighters, the fire didn’t stand a chance on John’s ranch.
John’s forest management began in 2010 with assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). He used the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to clean up the forest he’d inherited from his father. The area had been logged and replanted in the past, but was in need of some TLC.
“The work John did in 2010 made it possible for fire fighters to stop the fire and save nearby forestland,” said Jeff Classen, Oregon Department of Forestry Dallas Unit forester.
After seeing how powerful proactive management can be, John doubled down on conservation by signing up for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Designed for established conservationists, CSP helps farmers and ranchers take their stewardship to the next level.
Now that his forest is healthy and fire resistant, John is using CSP to diversify the trees in his woodland and planting fruit bearing shrubs for soil health and wildlife.