Journal of NACAA

Wildfire Behavior and Establishment of Proposed Vegetative Fuel Break Plant Species in North Central Oregon

ISSN 2158-9429

Volume 17, Issue 1 - June 2024

Editor: Linda Chalker-Scott


Fuel breaks are an important tool to break up continuous fuels, such as annual grasses, to improve firefighter safety and effectiveness. Farmers across Oregon are considering fuel breaks to mitigate the risks of wildfire. Vegetative fuel breaks are fuel breaks intentionally planted with perennial vegetation with high fuel moisture and reduced flammability. Forage kochia (Bassia prostrata), blue flax (Linum perenne), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) were seeded in North Central Oregon and examined as possible vegetative fuel break plant species, along with curlycup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa). Fuel moisture and burn characteristics (time to ignition, duration of combustion, and flame temperature) of these species, along with cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium) were evaluated in the summer of 2022. Establishment of seeded vegetation was challenging partially due to weather variability and weed competition. Each of the four proposed fuel break plant species had significantly higher fuel moisture than cheatgrass, except for blue flax in late August. Examined burn characteristics were significantly influenced by burn date and plant species with cheatgrass showing the greatest flammability. Overall forage kochia and curlycup gumweed exhibited the greatest reduction in fire behavior. This research supports that if vegetative fuel breaks can be established it can significantly alter fire behavior.

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