Massive fires that rage through the ponderosa pine forest leave a haunted wasteland in their wake.

To find a stunning example, just drive on Forest Road 300 through the blackened scar of the Dude Fire, which charred 30,000 acres and killed six firefighters more than 20 years ago. Many of the blackened snags still stand, many more lie piled on the ground like jackstraws. But at least the burn area forms a firebreak. Right? Not necessarily.

A tree-killing fire actually increases the amount of readily burned fuel on the ground for 20 years or more, according to a recent study by the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

The study gives support for the controversial practice of salvage logging, which gives timber companies the go-ahead to move in quickly after a wildfire to harvest the dead and downed trees killed — but not consumed — by the fire.

Current Forest Service practice often requires a detailed, time-consuming study before timber companies can go in and harvest the dead and dying trees. Often, this results in the “bluing” of the wood and the onset of rot and decay, these natural processes can make the lumber all but worthless by the time the Forest Service approves the salvage logging project.

From the Payson Roundup: