“It’s not something an organization looks forward to, but after the 18 years Lassen Fire Safe Council has been instigating fuel reduction treatments, a fire has come around to test one,” said Lloyd Keefer, LFSC Chair.
In the aftermath of the Hog Fire in northeastern California unscorched trees show that the treatments worked as planned. For the past 18 months LFSC has been busy with their partner, Sierra Pacific Industries putting landscape scale treatments on the ground near the community of Lake Forest. They have been putting to work $3.6 million dollars obtained through California Climate Investments Fire Prevention and Western WUI Grants with the goal of reducing hazardous fuel loads and restoring the forest.
“For a decade and a half our strategy has been to not only assist homeowners with treatments around their homes, but also treat the surrounding landscape for miles in all directions” said Tom Esgate, LFSC’s managing director.
The reason for this is the ignition for a fire can come from within the community and spread to the forest, or from out on the landscape and into the community. In the case of the Hog Fire, the ignition began on the landscape where topographical and meteorological conditions lined up perfectly to form an intense wildfire that threatened the Lake Forest community. Since LFSC & SPI began the project more than 3,000 acres of biomass thinning and mastication treatments have been put on the ground around the Lake Forest community and the South Eagle Lake Marina.
“These treatments are not controversial”, said Esgate, “they mimic the historic ecological site condition of the east side forest: open crown stands of well-spaced trees which allowed fire to burn at low intensity while still preserving the forest.”
The partnership’s last treatments for the first half of 2020 were completed in late June.
Late on July 18, the Hog Fire ignited about 6 miles west of Lake Forest. The next evening it blew up and pushed across Highway 44 where it encountered the 2 miles of the LFSC/SPI treatments that buffered the Lake Forest community from the fire.
The fire behavior, even under intense conditions, moderated on its eastern flank just as expected. It burned through heavy fuels on the western side of Highway 44 and then hit their treatments on the east and within about 300 meters of the highway it transitioned, according to CalFire, into a low intensity ground fire that provided a safe environment for suppression resources to operate. This allowed fire fighters to make a direct attack on the fire where dozer lines and personnel were able to halt the fire’s eastern progress toward Lake Forest.
“Lassen Fire Safe Council is currently implementing more than 29,000 acres of landscape scale treatments in northeastern California. None of our work would be possible without the capacity given to us by partners like Sierra Pacific Industries,” said Esgate.
In the case of the LFSC South Eagle Lake landscape scale treatments, SPI provided not only assistance in project design and management, but also the place for the treatments. This is not the partnership’s first project. Others include those near the communities of Clear Creek, Day Lassen Bench, Little Valley and Lookout. “These fuel treatments not only protect communities but also help restore the watershed,” said Mike Mitzel of Sierra Pacific Industries.
“Our capacity to do this critical work has been expanded by our partners, which also include WM Beaty & Associates, the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management PG&E and CAL Fire Conservation Crews. None of these projects would be possible without their help and expertise,” said Keefer.