By Hilary Corrigan • The Bulletin

The downed, blackened trees lining the side of Forest Road 40 near Sunriver probably will end up as firewood, and new lodgepole pine trees will grow back at the site of this summer’s Sheridan Fire.

The August blaze started near Forest Roads 40 and 45 and burned about 190 acres. Scorched trees now stand, stark and bare, back from the road through national forest land. Deschutes National Forest manages that area of mostly lodgepole pines with thinning, logging and prescribed burns.

Following a fire, restoration work first focuses on the impacts left by fighting the fire, said Trevor Miller, fuels assistant fire management officer with Deschutes National Forest. For instance, work at the Sheridan Fire site will include replacing the dirt that bulldozers moved when they created lines around the blaze. It will also entail mixing up the dirt in those bare patches so it’s not so compacted and vegetation can grow there again more easily; then some dead trees will be placed on those patches so people won’t use them as roads or trails.

The U.S. Forest Service has already cut down burned trees close to the road because they can pose a hazard. The agency plans to move those trees into the woods somewhere so that people can still find them for firewood, but without stopping their vehicles alongside the main road and creating a traffic hazard while cutting them up. The other standing burned trees provide food for bugs and woodpeckers and will eventually fall on their own.

Work at the Sheridan site could start within the next couple of weeks and last a couple of weeks.

“The dozer lines will be the big piece,” Miller said.

In general after a fire, a silviculturist — a specialist in forest trees — looks at a burned site and determines what it will take for a stand of trees to grow back. For instance, at a larger site full of burned, dead trees, forest managers might plant more trees to help the area regenerate. Other experts also look at different elements of a burn site’s landscape, such as soil and any waterways that may be affected by sediment that could harm habitat for fish like bull trout, for instance. A fire through old growth ponderosa and lodgepole might spark a salvage sale of the wood that can still be used.

A silviculturist checked out the Sheridan Fire site after the blaze and determined that a lodgepole stand would not have trouble growing back on its own to replace the lost trees.

“This wasn’t a huge fire. There’s plenty of seed source around it,” Miller said, noting the nearby healthy trees and vegetation. “Come back here in five years, it’s gonna be a sea of little green trees.”

Lodgepole naturally grows in that area and that type of pine tree has the ability to grow quickly.

“It’s like grass almost,” Miller said.

Young green lodgepoles, about 10 to 15 years old, were already growing, unharmed, just outside the recent fire’s line. Miller expects grass will grow in around the dead standing trees by spring.

But heading into winter, “It’ll be black on white with the snow,” he said.

The fire’s cause remains under investigation. It occurred during a string of fires and officials said at the time that arson caused at least 14 of them in Central Oregon. The only ones that officials have so far confirmed as arson are a cluster of small fires near Sisters and a large fire in Paisley.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,

hcorrigan@bendbulletin.com

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