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A Real Fireside Chat with Oscar Montijo


My name is Oscar Montijo. I’m from the George
Washington & Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. I am the superintendent of the Augusta
Interagency Hotshot Crew, a type one organization. Okay, today what we’ve been doing is protecting
structures. This particular structure is out in the middle of the Big Cypress Preserve.
Access to it is, it takes a long time to get in here. We’re flying in by air, which cuts
down the time. And the issue with that is when the fire gets here, sometimes we have
to overreact and catch up to the fire behavior. In this instance, we’ve been monitoring
the fire here for two days. And today it hit our trigger points, and what we did is we
lit around the structure that’s over here to our north, with favorable winds pushing
all the smoke away from the structure and slowly worked the fire around the structure,
protecting the structure. But what we’re trying to achieve with that is, this particular
piece right here where we’re standing is private that goes into the preserve, we don’t
want to kill everything. What we want to do is reduce the threat to the structure and
also to encourage what would naturally happen with fire moving through the landscape. A slow moving fire backing through the landscape
is really good. We’re not killing trees, we’re reducing the understory, we’re reducing
the fuels that lead to faster moving fires or hotter burning fires. And by allowing,
by coming in here, protecting the structure and then letting the fire back out slowly
away from it what we’re doing is, we’re just increasing the productivity of what a
fire would naturally do if it were burning on the landscape on its own, just eating what
it would eat up today in the conditions that we have today with the temperatures and humidity. It’s not gonna eat the big logs up but it’s
going to reduce the grasses. It’s going to reduce this palmetto, the sawgrass, which,
in turning, and adds food for whatever’s out here, and also adds nutrients to the ground
and helps things grow. We were talking earlier, we go to get, we
get a good rain here, let’s say an inch over a couple day period. You could come out
here within two days and you would see this black landscape around here, right behind
us, that would already have sprout, just because of what’s in the ground, what’s waiting
to sprout, and it just needs a little bit of moisture.

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