Congratulations to the Trinity County community of Weaverville. You just saved your own ass.
The return of fire to the landscape is essential in this new hotter dryer climate regime that we are living in. This proactive burning needs to be happening all over Northwestern California. Take a look around your community wildland interface and you’ll see the need is there. It’s time to follow this small example in Weaverville and do what the indigenous people of this area always did.
Here’s Weaverville’s story
Sally Morris The Trinity Journal
Firefighters who tamed the wind-driven flames of the Aug. 24 Oregon fire at the doorsteps of town are crediting last fall’s prescribed fire treatment within the Weaverville Community Forest and the Weaver Basin Trail System for helping them to stop the fire’s advance on Trinity High School and the many homes in harm’s way until the wind calmed.
With fire crews still on scene in mop-up mode, the damage assessments began immediately. Hiking up the Garden Gulch trail north of Taylor Street, it is easy to see where prescribed burning was conducted last November and where it wasn’t.
Uphill on the treated side of the trail, grasses were scorched, but the trees are green and undamaged. Downhill where heavy brush was not treated, the recent fire burned hot and fast, resulting in blackened earth and greater tree mortality.
Touring the area immediately after the flames were out, Shasta-Trinity National Forest Fuels Specialist Tim Ritchey of Weaverville estimated tree mortality of approximately 10 percent where the fire ran through areas that had been treated with prescribed burning to reduce the buildup of fuels. It is closer to 60 percent where no treatment occurred.
“The treated areas really slowed the fire down so the crews could get in. The intensity decreased and the rate of spread slowed which aided us in getting around and ahead of the fire,” Ritchey said, pointing to a section where there were 20- to 30-foot flames on the wildfire side of the trail and flames of less than a foot on the treated side.
“It’s really nice to see defensible space in action said the Shasta-Trinity’s acting Public Affairs Officer Debra Ann Brabazon, noting that prescribed burns are not always popular with the public in the short-term, “so it’s important for the community to see there is a positive, long-term effect.”
Having existing trails in place also provided quick access for firefighters “who didn’t have to cut and bulldoze their way into the fire here,” she said.
The U.S. Forest Service and Weaverville Volunteer Fire Department last November conducted the prescribed burn on 76 acres north of Taylor Street involving Community Forest land accessed by the Weaver Basin Trail System and some private acreage owned by the Snyder Highland Foundation.
The burning was done as part of the Weaverville Community Fire Protection Plan and to enhance wildlife habitat by increasing forage for deer. The Trinity County Resource Conservation District assisted and grant funding was received from the California Deer Association.
Some sections of the Weaver Basin Trail System sustained severe damage in the recent wildfire, primarily in the vicinity of Weaver Bally Road near the fire’s origin along Highway 299. Ritchey noted the McKenzie Gulch trail “really took some heat and there’s not much left there,” but he said that overall, “the trails will be OK” for upcoming bike races in October and flames didn’t reach as far up as the Howe Ditch section.
Trail damage assessments also began immediately following the fire as did restoration work to repair bulldozer lines, prevent erosion and replace tread torn up by suppression efforts.
“The goal is to return the area as much as possible to its pre-fire condition,” Ritchey said.
Trinity County Resource Conservation District Director Alex Cousins said the RCD will staff a couple of extra summer positions through the winter to focus on the anticipated trail work needed to clear out water bars, remove hazards and replace bridges that were burned.
He said Sept. 27 happens to be National Trails Day and a community bike ride/volunteer trail cleanup event is being planned, adding “our trails will be fine. Next spring this will all be green grass again.”
As far as doing more prescribed burning in the area, Ritchey said there are plans being made to treat about 230 acres in the East Weaver Creek drainage this fall for community protection and wildlife enhancement as well as a Jackass Ridge project involving about 90 acres to expand on a smaller burn conducted there in January.