California Burning: A Special Edition on Wildfires — Debate rages amid smoke and flames: How do we stay safe?

  • [Patric Hedlund image from Scott Robinson archive photos]

    [Patric Hedlund image from Scott Robinson archive photos]

By Marcy Axness and Patric Hedlund, TME

Smoke-choked air hid the sun in our Mountain Community’s Labor Day weekend in 2020 as the massive Creek fire raged across Fresno County 200 miles to the north. It pushed billowing smoke clouds south while trapping hundreds of campers who had to be evacuated by National Guard helicopters. By Monday the U.S. Forest Service took a nearly unprecedented action. They closed eight of California’s nine national parks, effective immediately.

Worst Wildfire Season Ever

Over two million acres of California had burned as of Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) reported. Twenty-five major wildfires were…(please see below to view full stories and photographs)

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Our ‘California Burning’ series originally ran in Fall 2020. It was recently awarded First Place by the National Newspaper Association for Investigative Reporting. We are reprinting the series in the next several weeks, because issues covered in this reporting still pose threats to our Mountain Communities. We also have many new residents who have settled here in the past year who may benefit from understanding these urgent issues.

Within the Creek fire perimeter (as of Sept. 8, 2020), LPFW charts three major prior fires (French, 2014; Aspen, 2013; Big Creek, 1994) and six ‘forest treatment projects’ (Bald Mountain Project, 2014; Coyote Fuel Reduction and Forest Restoration Project, 2013; Dawn Meadow Thinning, 2010; Hazard Tree Removal, 2012; Keola Fuels and Forest Health Project, 2011; plus the Whiskey Ridge Ecological Restoration Project, 2013.

In 2006 the Day fire jumped right across Lockwood Valley Road, illustrating why a firebreak is not a cure-all for stopping fast-moving, wind-driven fire. Lockwood Valley’s population had to evacuate.

Eugene, Oregon—where Timothy Ingalsbee calls home—was threatened in 2020. Dominick DellaSala’s hometown of Talent, Oregon, was incinerated by blowing ember storms that traveled two miles in front of the Almeda fire.

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This is part of the November 5, 2021 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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