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By Elers Koch, Forest Supervisor, United States Forest Service, Missoula, Montana

On a large percentage of the Forest Service timber sales fire protection has been insured by piling and burning the slash, which costs usually from 30 cents to 75 cents per thousand feet. Brush piling, in most cases, is done by the logger, and, of recent years, the timber sale contract usually requires the operator to burn the brush also. With stumpage prices running from $1 to $4 per thousand feet, the cost of brush disposal, which, of course, comes out of the stumpage paid the government, takes a large proportion of the value of the timber. On a big timber sale, with a heavy stand per acre, the total amount expended for temporary protection of the sale area reaches a rather alarming figure, and the thrifty forester must, of necessity, cast about for a less expensive means of protection from fire.

Observations made on old slashings indicate that, in from five to seven years, the slash has rotted down and disappeared so as to bring the fire risk back to normal. The problem, then, is to secure protection for the cut-over area during the danger period, after which the ordinary protective measures in force on the forest should suffice. Piling and burning the brush reduces the danger to a minimum, but the expenditure for a few years' fire protection is extremely great.

The fire risk on a timber sale area is generally either from fire starting in an adjoining slash on private lands, or from some human agency, such as logging engines, campers or smokers within the area. If a system of fire lines is constructed, by piling and burning the brush on strips 100 to 300 feet wide along the danger zones, and combined with a very intensive patrol for about five years after the cutting, it should be possible to reduce the fire risk to a minimum at a fraction of the cost of piling and burning the slash on the entire area. In general, the brush should be piled and burned on a strip 200 feet wide around the border of the area if it adjoins slashing on private lands. A wide strip should be cleared of brush on either side of logging railways, and narrow strips along the main logging roads would break the area up into blocks and reduce the danger of fires starting at those points apt to be frequently traversed by human beings.

Lopping the tops may prove desirable in some stands where the brush is very heavy, in order to hasten the rotting of the branches


*Reprinted by permission, from Forestry Quarterly. Volume XI, No. 4.

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