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Riding After a Forest Fire

The Pacific Northwest has seen a lot of forest fires in the past few years, affecting hundreds of miles of trails.  It may be tempting ride out to check out how your favorite trails fared after last year’s fires.  But hazards lurk in newly-burned forests, even after the Forest Service and volunteers have done restoration work.  When you ride through a recently-burned area, be on the lookout for these potential hazards:

Falling Snags

After a fire, the burned trees can break off in the wind and fall on you.  Don’t ride through stands of burned trees on a windy day.

Logs Across the Trail

Previously-fallen snags can become significant trail obstacles.

Burned-Out Root Systems

After a fire sweeps through an area, it may continue to smolder in the roots of trees, eventually burning out the roots that run underground.  Everything looks fine from above the ground – until your horse steps in a burned-out tunnel.  Burned-out roots sometimes run under trails, but they’re an even bigger risk if you ride off-trail.  Use extreme care if you ride off the trail to get around a fallen log.

Washouts and Landslides

The land may become destabilized after a fire, allowing melting snow to cause washouts and landslides.  The trail footing may become unstable and treacherous.

Signs and Bridges Destroyed

Trees aren’t the only thing that may be burned in a forest fire.  You may find that the signs and bridges you once relied upon are now gone. 

When you ride through an area that was recently burned in a forest fire, use caution and don’t take foolish chances.

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