Replanting at Two Bulls Fire area set for spring 2016

The Bend Bulletin reports on efforts to replant Skyline Forest after the Two Bulls Fire.
By Dylan Darling
The Bend Bulletin

About 80 years will have to pass before the woods burned last June in the Two Bulls Fire look like they did before the blaze, said the manager of the timberland.

“I wish it was sooner than that,” said Chris Johnson, vice president of timber operations for Whitefish Cascade Forest Resources. The company, which is based in Singapore and has an office in Sunriver, now owns much of the forest burned by the fire after the February purchase of 33,000 acres west of Bend.

About 6,200 acres of the 6,908-acre Two Bulls Fire was on land now held by Whitefish Cascade, Johnson said.

Following the flames, loggers cut timber from about 4,000 acres, or about 70 percent of the burn area. All the logging, which yielded close to 9 million board-feet, is done.

“We will begin our planning efforts spring of 2016,” Johnson said.

Over spring 2016 and spring 2017 the company plans to plant 800,000 ponderosa pine seedlings on the land. The seedlings are currently growing in Washington.

There were about 500 acres’ worth of green forest, pockets of unburnt trees, within the burn area, Johnson said.

“The rest of it is what’s called a stand-replacing fire,” he said. The fire burned hot, killing trees and knocking down ground vegetation.

The fire burned on a portion of the land the Deschutes Land Trust has long sought to turn into the Skyline Forest.

Following a dry May, the woods close to Bend were primed to burn last June. The Two Bulls Fire spread about 6 miles, mostly on the first day, said Sgt. Nathan Garibay with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. Given a shift in wind, the fire had the potential to push into the west side of Bend.

At the peak of the fire, more than 3,000 homes were under at least a level 1, or be-ready-to-go, evacuation warning. Of those about 254 homes and around 635 people were under a level 3, or leave-now, evacuation warning, Garibay said. While dramatic because of the number of homes involved, he said such warnings often happen during fire season in Central Oregon.

“It’s not unheard of around here,” he said. “Almost every summer we have fires that have the potential for evacuations.”