My 15.75 x 30 Jemez Cabin

Started by MountainDon, December 20, 2006, 02:03:09 AM

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Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.

Dave Sparks

It is a big one!  Buenas Suerte!
"we go where the power lines don't"

glenn kangiser

Stay safe, Don.  We know about fires out here in California, the firewood capitol of the world. :-\
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.


Another year, another fire... with others in between 2017 and today.

Last Friday, the 22nd, a fire started 1 mile south of us. The winds were exceptionally high that day, with gusts recorded to 62 mph. By some combination of hard work spent thinning trees, removing ground clutter and maintaining a more or less clear ground area around the cabin and plain dumb luck and good fortune, our cabin did not burn. Pretty amazing!  The two sheds burnt as did the screened gazebo. The fire was hot enough to melt the chiminea in the gazebo. A couple of other cabins on neighboring lots burnt to the ground. Going by the pictures we were sent the fire was on the ground and did not jump to the tree tops. We cannot go for a look ourselves as the area is still considered an active fire. Overnight it grew from 7,000 acres to 15,000 as it moved eastwards away from our location.

By some strange coincidence, after much thought, Karen and I had decided that very morning that we would list the property for sale. At 3:30 in the afternoon the fire broke out. It is now over 7000 acres and still burning. Poor timing. The market is so hot right now it would have likely sold within days.




Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Oh my! I am sorry.
Your work clearing paid off. It looks like the trees might make it.
When we were cleaning up after a fire several years ago I was scraping with the bobcat trying to get broken glass and globs of aluminum when someone yelled Stop! The owner came over and looked at the glob of metal and determined it was right about where the drawer was with his grandmothers silverware.


My first thought was about how much the aluminum would be worth at the scrap metal dealer. Then my sister in law saw the above picture and said it looks like wall art.

Yeah, we are happy we took time and effort to thin and to keep picking up fallen branches and rake up pine needles every spring from around the cabin area. We have done that every spring. In my recollection there has never been a serious fire here this early in the year. We usually rake about now and are done by mid to end of May. We were getting ready to do that.

So there was only one years worth of needle debris on the ground. They come off over the winter. We think the needles on the ground allowed creeping fire to get to the base of the shed and gazebo walls. The sheds were all metal walled and roofed but with a strong wind there were small gaps that could have neen ignition points. Tha gazebo was tinder. On the cabin I covered the underside of the floor with metal too.  We had timbers laid in places on the ground with the intent to slow rain water flow. That seemed to slow the ground fore in many places which was a side benefit.

Cleanup vomes next, once the forest opens again. It is still considered an active fire zone.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Wow, sorry to hear but so glad your cabin made it.  

Nate R

Glad to hear and see the cabin made it! Thanks for sharing the experience.

I'm curious, if you're willing to share, why you had decided to sell?

Also, what did you do with needles and branches annually that you raked? Chip? Burn? Disposal site?
I've got 4 acres of pine forest, and realize it's past time to start raking up needles around my property....


Gathered pine needles and fallen branches, slash, etc. were burned once or twice a year in a special area we had cleared out, after rains or late enough when snow had fallen and only when the fire marshall gave the okay.

We had decided to sell precisely because of what happened this past week. We could see fires starting earlier becoming the new normal. We've seen the areas burned in the past 10-15 years are larger than the old days 25 years ago and in many places are not regrowing pines and firs. Rather smaller trees and shrubs are filling in.

And the current fire (Cerro Pelado is the name FYI) is ongoing. This morning's figure was up to 22,000 acres. Because of the increasing size containment dropped from 15% a few days ago to 10%. The two lines they consider contained have actually grown in length. To the east, the fire has reached an area that was the state's largest ever fire up to 2011. That record lasted a year. That area has lots of standing and fallen dead from the 2011 fire that is presently drier than kiln dried lumber. Burning into areas where all cabins and homes were lost in 2011 and some of the new ones are threatened today.

Sad. We hope to get in our area soon, but there is no tentative schedule at all.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.

Nate R

Thanks for the replies, Don. I'll have to figure out a spot to burn our debris. The last few years, our town has paid for a brush pickup in our subdivision, so we've been able to at least get rid of branches that way....but needles are another story.

Sorry to hear you'll be selling....but if the threat of fire is worsening, and that, and/or the annual prevention work is weighing on you, I can understand that.
I worry about our area every spring.... 2 weeks ago someone 1/2 mile away started their property on fire, burned about 1.6 acres, the corner of their structure, lost a shed.....  New property owners trying to clean things up and burning debris on a VERY gusty day during the worst time of year for wildfire here in Wisconsin.  Thankfully fire crews got it under control quickly...


This fire is now at 25,000+ acres and still going. Tomorrow we are going to see if we can drive in as our area is apparently more or less burned out.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Talk about too close for comfort! Glad your place made it through and I agree that it seems fires are going to be something we deal with year round now. 


Wow!  So glad it survived!  Your hard work paid off!

Every year I try to start the year off working to clear and clean around the cabin and late spring I break it down to dirt as much as possible all around the cabin (we have a wet May and June) in hopes of protecting it just like you're doing.

This year I hope to also bring down more trees around the cabin itself!
Good reminder here for me!


We do the clean-up every spring too, but this fire year started before we could do that. 29,000 acres and still making lots of smoke. It is not the worst fire in NM at this time either.

We were very fortunate. The cabin survived with some unscorched ground around it and a large number of pines in the cabin area are wonderfully green, though we can see black sticks all around.  The solar area is untouched. The ground a few feet beyond a small circle around the pole is very burned. So we still have power.

And by some stroke of luck the firewood shed is untouched. The fire came close but that doesn't count.

All things considered we came out better than most immediate neighbors. The wood floor on our cabin porch does not even have any burns from flying embers.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Update after the fire.

The opinion of the county fire marshall and others with wildfire experience who have all had a first-hand, on-the-ground look at the property is that our hard work in thinning some trees and removing ground clutter of fallen branches along with the annual removal of pine needles in areas closest to the cabin helped us. A little bit of good dumb luck may have been involved too as the winds during the initial hours of the fire were consistently in the 60 to 75 mph range. The point of ignition was 1 mile south and the winds were pretty much directed straight at the property.

The fire came up the slope, more or less straight. The trees at the slope bottom are burnt black all the way up. The fire was in the tree tops at that point. The fire dropped to the ground once it hit the acres we had thinned and cleaned up. The fire still was hot enough to toast the tops of the trees 70 feet up in the air, but the tops never burned. They are still loaded with lots of brown needles. Those trees are dead. Then closer to the cabin the fire was a little less hot as there are 70 foot pines with some green and some (many) brown needles. Those will take longer to turn all brown and have the needles drop, but they are probably dead as well. We may leave a few of the ones with more green and see what happens. I peeled back some bark patches at ground level on a couple of pines and the cambium layer was yellow-brown, signifying dead.

This fire was very early in the year. We had yet to do all the planned spring rake-up of pine needles within 40 feet of the cabin. What was on the ground there was the seasonal fall/winter needle shedding. That was enough to blacken tree trunks and still cause damage to the structures that were not built with all the same fire prevention items.

This first image is a panorama shot looking south and west. Green trees around the cabin and more and more damage the further away one gets. Past the right edge of the picture is the pines are mostly burnt completely black.

This is a 10-14 day old  image, The grass in the meadow had been burned off but is coming back quite well.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


This next image is looking west, taken the same day as the image above. The large trees in the foreground should all be fine but the little ones at ground level are probably all goners.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Looking southwards down the slope with the cabin to the left. The location of the burned-down gazebo is on the right side of the image. The needles on the trees that still have needles are mostly brown with less than 40% green on most or all trees. Our forestry officer (state) believes they are done for. Same thing with our loggers' opinion. He has been logging in the area for many years, and his family for a few generations. There is some green grass in the lower meadow that can be seen through the trees.

We have contracted with the logger for the removal of most of the dead trees. The larger ones will be sawn into beams or something marketable at the pueblo sawmill. Smaller trees may be used for making stove pellets at the pueblo pellet mill. Other smaller trees will be laid across the slopes, branches scattered and the machines driven over them to push them into place, sorta. We have some seed that will be broadcast as well.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


It is remarkable how close the fire came without burning your cabin. It must have been blazing hot. What a wonder...


Quote from: NathanS on June 27, 2022, 08:44:22 AMIt must have been blazing hot. What a wonder...

Hot enough to melt aluminum; a chiminea fireplace and 3 ladders. 35 cents a pound at the scrapper
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


After a wildfire rips through a forest there are 2 choices; leave it alone or do something. Some of our neighbors up there were of the leave it alone school of thought before the fire. That is they never did any preventive thinning or even cleaning up of deadfall and build-up of duff on the ground. Well, it seems that even having a wildfire roar through, burning virtually all their living trees, the deadfall, and their cabins and other structures was not enough to change their minds. The same ones are "letting nature take its course". Not that their pieces of the forest were anywhere close to being in a natural condition pre-fire. Most of the forests in the western US have had all fires suppressed for 100+ years and there is no "natural" when that is the practice.

We and a couple of the neighbors have taken the "do something" approach. We enlisted the help of the company that has been doing the contract thinning for the national forest service for the past number of years. A standing burnt and dead tree contains marketable timber. The pines and firs that are large enough can be sawn into beams, timbers and lumber at the nearby pueblo sawmill. Some of the smaller diameter trees can be used to make wood stove pellets at the pueblo's pellet mill. Some of the smaller trees and a few of the larger are being laid across the slopes to help prevent erosion from the rains.  All at no cost to us. Jobey gets whatever profits he makes by selling the timber to the pueblo and paying his workers, fuel costs, etc etc. We get a nearly "clean slate" The state forestry and soil conservation people will help (a little) with costs of seed for assorted perennials to be sown later and some tree seedlings if we want them.

The other choice, to leave the dead burnt trees as they are, is simply providing the land with a load of fuel wood for another fire in a few years. It may take even 10 to 20 years but there will be another fire. That is exactly what happened with this fire. In 2011 there was a big wildfire east of us. The forest service left the forest as it was after that fire. Dead standing all over a hundred thousand acres. Over the ten years between then and now many of the trees fell over. Great fuel wood, as here is the arid SW even the mountains don't get a lot of rain. Wood on the ground does not stay moist very long, it does not rot away very quickly. Nothing was harvested after that fire. When this fire reached the old burn scar it did not stop or even slow. It continued to rage and burned structures and caused evacuations.

Anyhow, I will get off my soapbox now and get back to the main point I logged today. The logger has reached our property and has a few interesting to watch pieces of machinery. I have a few videos of the feller-buncher in action.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.

Adam Roby

Pretty awesome equipment.  Do they normally cut them at ground level or leave a stump?  I looked like he stalled out the blade a few times there.  He seems to just ram into the trees with the saw, I would have expected a slower approach.  


Everything is cut at ground level so there is nothing to get caught up on while moving any other machinery around.

The big steel cutting disc is brought to speed by the hydraulic motor and acts like a flywheel. It does slow down on large diameter trees but I've never seen it stall. As for finesse, he's not making furniture.   ;)  The blade is about 2 inches thick. The cutting teeth are carbide blocks with 3 cutting edges. Secured by a large central bolt, the teeth are set into notches. Each block can be rotated as needed until all 4 edges have been used.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.


Wow!  Amazing machinery!  Now you need a portable sawyer come up and turn those logs into lumber before they sit too long and get checked badly!


The bigger logs will become beams and such at the pueblo sawmill. Medium size straight logs will become vigas, used in many upscale NM homes. Some smaller and sawn-off waste will become wood stove pellets, also at the pueblo. A quantity is being laid across the slopes to help slow erosion.

We're back early today. Rains, big rains, threaten and the road in gets damaged easily now from the extreme runoff from the burn scar. We have a meeting scheduled with the FS as it is their road. The runoff is also causing problems in a developed area between us and the highway. Hopefully, a solution is found soon.

This fire may have been caused by the FS not tending to February slash burns south of us where a lot of thinning had been done over the winter. The report is still not out. If the FS is at fault remedies will be faster coming.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.