2017 Wildland Fire Tour

Location: Johnson Pass, (Tooele) Utah

Background: This tour took attendees through a variety of pinyon juniper mastication treatments on Johnson Pass near Tooele. We discussed the pros and cons of employing this mastication technique on the arrangement of fuels, the ability to suppress and manage fires, and the impacts to the system as a whole.

Objectives: In response to pinyon juniper (PJ) woodland expansion in Utah, land managers are turning to mechanical treatments such as mastication. This treatment reduces less desirable trees (such as PJ) to crude wood chips that are left on the ground in varying depths. By moving the fuels from a vertical arrangement to a horizontal arrangement (scattered along the ground), crown fires drop to the ground and become surface fires. These low-intensity surface fires are typically less dangerous and easier to suppress than crown fires. However, many point out that these treatments don't actually reduce fuels, rather they just change their arrangement. While the danger remains a threat, in the masticated areas the risk of high intensity fires is reduced. Masticated fuels are one of the more significant changes that firefighters have faced over the past decade. On this tour, we observed a freshly masticated PJ woodland, recently chained PJ site, sites with spring and fall prescribed fires in masticated PJ fuels, and a wildfire that occurred where PJ mastication occurred.

Partners: USU Extension, USU Range Extension, Intermountain Society of American Foresters, Southern Rockies Fire Science Network, U.S. Forest Service