EUGENE, Ore. — Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology (FUSEE) released new data in their report on the environmental impacts of bulldozer firelines that showed the total extent and exact locations of dozerlines that were carved into hillsides during last summer’s Carr Fire in northern California. The report presents maps that reveal that a majority of the dozerlines either failed to stop fire spread or failed to engage the fire at all.
“Long after vegetation has recovered on burned slopes, dozerlines will remain as open wounds oozing soil and mud into nearby lakes and streams,” said Timothy Ingalsbee, FUSEE’s executive director and the lead author of the report. “Adding insult to this injury is the fact that most of the dozerlines failed to stop the spread of the wildfire.”
FUSEE’s report, Carr Fire CATlines: The Environmental Impacts of Bulldozers in Wildfire Suppression, presents several maps showing the precise locations of dozerlines along with aerial photos that the firefighter’s group collected with the use of a drone camera. A short video shot with the drone accompanies the report.
The report explains that dozerlines cause a number of environmental impacts including soil vegetation loss, soil compaction and erosion, stream siltation and sedimentation, forest fragmentation, and increased hazardous fuel loads. Additionally, dozerlines are known vectors for the spread of invasive weeds, and can become “ghost” roads for illegal off-road vehicle use. Finally, the location of many dozerlines along prominent ridgelines within view of Mt. Shasta likely destroyed Native American artifacts and heritage sites.
“‘Big Iron’ bulldozers can cut a lot of fireline quickly and brutally, but during extreme conditions that drive large wildfires like the Carr Fire–conditions that are becoming more frequent due to climate change–dozers are becoming increasingly ineffective in stopping wildfire spread,” said Timothy Ingalsbee. “Bulldozer operators are risking their lives in desperate but often futile attempts to stop wildfires while safer and more effective means of protecting homes and communities from fire damage are being neglected.”