January February, 2004





Keeping Fire at Bay

Two companies use Rayco equipment to improve forest health and reduce fire

By Carl Clayton

Because of both the practical and environmental objections to fire as a forest treatment tool, mechanical approaches are becoming critical to landowners who value their forests. One company realizing this early on was Associated Arborists, located in the Northern California town of Chico. According to its owner, Scott Muir, Associated Arborists has worked for a number of years “...with power line companies, timber firms, and others who are concerned about reducing the threat of fire to the lands they are responsible for.”
To handle the work, some years ago Scott began to look at equipment capable of effectively performing the specialized tasks he was called upon to undertake in treating forested lands. The search led him to Rayco.

Designed For the Need
Scott say he was already familiar with Rayco, as the company is well known to arborists as a supplier of stump cutters and grinders. The attraction for Scott this time was that Rayco was one of the early equipment manufacturers to look at the need to treat forests for health and reduced fire intensity and then develop a line of machinery especially suited to that need. After a good deal of research, Scott says he purchased a Rayco T275 site preparation machine equipped with an FM7260 Forestry Mower/Mulcher.

The Forestry Mower/Mulcher, Scott says, is designed to provide the maneuverability necessary to get around in a thick forest without damaging residual trees. The machine is also configured to project material down rather than sideways as it works. “With most machines there is usually some collateral damage due to flying debris,” Scott says. This equipment allows you to control the flow of the material so almost no debris is ejected to the sides.

That allows you to work much closer to inhabited areas and roads than you can with other machines, and it protects the trees you are leaving behind.” In the woods, the FM7260 is used to remove and mulch huge amounts of small materials forming fire ladders into larger and more important trees. Reduced damage to remainder trees is vital in preserving the future health and value of the trees left after treatment.

As the result of the subsequent work, Scott has added a second machine. “The treatment we’re doing for fire reduction is saving tens of millions of dollars in damage and the customers are responding to it,” says Scott. “In the forest it not only has the potential to save immense areas from catastrophic fire, it improves habitat and creates an all around healthier forest. Near the cities it allows us to substantially reduce the potential for damage to homes due to wildfire. It’s also done a tremendous job on power line right of way vegetation control projects.”

Making Urban Life Fire Free
 In Southern California, near Santa Barbara, Keith Garl’s A-1 Tree Service works to preserve forest health and reduce susceptibility to fire at the urban fringe. A third generation arborist, Keith specializes in preparing overgrown areas of forested land for development in ways that “make for good-looking developments with lots of green spaces retaining important forest characteristics.”

Treatment in the urban forest has importance. Research by the U.S. Forest Service has revealed that the quality of the urban forest can have dramatic impacts on both carbon sequestration and on reducing fossil fuel usage (Carbon Dioxide Reduction Through Urban Forestry). Because fire in the urban forest is as much a problem as in the rural forest, clearing of the fire ladder is also vital in both. In many ways the treatment Keith provides on a new, forested development mimics that necessary to preserve and protect a rural forest and, in fact, his firm can provide both services. Using a Rayco C 85 FM forestry mower, the little brother to Scott Muir’s unit, Keith is able to go into very dense forest areas in order to shred small trees and underbrush, turning them into mulch.

As with the larger machine, the C 85 propels material down into the ground, so damage to residual trees is minimized. Because the machine is less than six feet wide, it can maneuver easily between trees while eliminating the fire ladder that makes fires in both the urban fringe and the rural forest so destructive. Because A-1 Tree Service is able to use its equipment to mulch material onto and into the forest floor without doing excessive damage to residual trees, the company is able to provide significant environmental enhancements for the developments it clears as well as for the larger community.

Clearing can be done in and around relatively closely spaced trees so more trees can be safely left in greenbelt areas, while trees requiring harvest are more easily and cost-effectively accessed. Rather than having to haul fiber away, an expense for the developer, the mulched underbrush and small trees are returned to the soil where they provide enrichment. “It’s the ideal situation,” says Keith. “We’ve reduced costs and increased income to the developer even as we’ve improved forested areas and reduced fire hazards. In doing that we’ve not only responsibly served our client, we’ve addressed the responsibility we have to the people who will live in the development and to those who live in the larger community.” Today, more than ever before, owners of forestland have an economic stake in enhancing that land for health and fire resistance.

From a practical standpoint, treating the land results in improved yield and protects the land from the kind of devastating fire that destroys the economic value of the property. On the environmental side, the very treatments required to improve economic value also provide significant returns to the environment in terms of forest health, reduced pollution, and control of global warming. Treatment efforts like those provided by Associated Arborists and A-1 Tree Service are no longer options; they are vital to the owners of forested lands for economic, social, and environmental reasons.


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004