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Cultural Resources and Fire

A large portion of the public lands within the MFD are at high risk for catastrophic wildfire.  Large, hot, uncontrolled crown fires may threaten prehistoric and historic archaeological remains with damage such as scorching, charring, smoke-blackening, oxidation rinds, complete consumption of artifacts, alteration/contamination and destruction of potential dating samples, suppression activities involving heavy machinery and other means, and through extensive post-fire erosion.  Cooperative efforts to reduce the possibility of catastrophic crown fire including mechanical thinning of small diameter fuels and the re-introduction of relatively cooler and less damaging low-intensity ground fire, can help minimize wildfire damage and preserve both prehistoric and historic archaeological remains.

The role of a fire archaeologist is to identify cultural resources that might be impacted by wildland fire and/or fuels management activities, and to recommend measures to prevent or mitigate those impacts.  If there is time, a fire archaeologist will survey new ground ahead of a wildland fire for any sites that have not yet been recorded.  In order to protect cultural artifacts and their context, fire archaeologists may survey firelines and fuelbreaks and/or perform pre- and post-burn assessments of archaeological sites.  If impacts cannot be avoided during a wildland fire, the fire archaeologist will document any damage, and recommend appropriate mitigation measures.  For fuels management and post-wildfire rehabilitation activities, an archaeologist will locate and mark all cultural sites in the area and assist during project implementation to assure that activity avoids identified archaeological sites.