There are lessons to be learned from the Dixie Fire, Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon shared during the Tuesday, Sept. 21, Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting.
During the meeting, several department and agency heads, including Growdon, Lassen National Forest Supervisor Deb Bumpass and Lassen OES Chief Silas Rojas shared information about the catastrophic wildfire that’s finally dwindling down more than two months after it ignited. As of Tuesday morning, the fire was still at 90 percent containment. It has burned 963, 276 acres.
Growdon thanked all the county and state partnerships that aided in the various facets of the fire — from fighting the fire, to evacuations, relocating animals and putting up shelters — and said a county-wide after action may be a good idea to glean insight into how to better handle any future occurrences.
“I think we need to do a county-wide after action with the partners who were involved about the lessons we’ve learned through this fire. We’ve had lots of fires in the past, but nothing like magnitude. I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn from it,” said Growdon, adding they were going to do it at the sheriff’s office level as well.
Growdon also shared his concern that a solid reforestation and clearing plan needs to be put in place to limit future fast-moving fires, and also noted the department was going to continue to improve communication and proactive messages ahead of evacuations. He noted how a community meeting in Westwood prior to the town’s evacuation helped ease some worry, and said the sheriff’s office was going to put out videos on social media explaining evacuations and what residents can expect.
The Sheriff also stressed the importance of improving conditions around the county.
“If the fire got into Westwood, it would’ve torched a lot of that town because there is so little access for fire personnel,” he said adding debris in alleys and between houses was a concern.
Bumpass noted the fire has cost about $579 million to date, with the cost largely focused on equipment. Supervisors asked Bumpass if she could pass on the idea to higher ups to put that money into prevention tactics before additional large fires ignite.
Moreover, members on the board questioned the past prescription method for replanting and reforesting burned areas, and Bumpass noted the agency may look at changing what’s been done in the past.
She also noted there was still a lot of work to be done with clean up and restoration, “The fire was very damaging, and putting the fire out was very damaging. We’ve got a lot to do, we’ve got a lot ahead of us.”
Additionally, Lassen OES chief Rojas noted the Phase 1 of debris removal was completed for both the Beckwourth and Dixie Fires, and said Phase 2 of the debris removal was underway and assess properties would be getting the application mailed to them to fill out.
He also addressed the Disaster Resource center in Janesville providing information and services to victims of the Dixie Fire.
Supervisors thanked the local department heads on their work. District 1 supervisor Chris Gallagher commended Growdon and all sheriff’s office staff on their assistance in Plumas County and in Lassen.
District 2 Supervisor Gary Bridges noted the importance of having local knowledge when it came to fighting this fire, especially from Cal Fire Lassen Modoc Unit Chief Scott Packwood.
The Lassen County Board of Supervisors did not take any action on the matter, and received the updates from the various departments and agencies.