SNC funds help to protect Lassen National Park from Dixie Fire

Sep 14, 2021 | Project Highlights

Forested landscape with three peaks in the background: Pilot Mountain, Saddle Mountain, and Mount Harkness. Flatiron Ridge is in the middle ground, and Drakesbad Guest Ranch (Warner Valley) is near the foreground.
The Dixie Fire burn area includes parts of Lassen Volcanic National Park, and much of the landscape of the North Fork Feather River Landscape Restoration Project, pictured several years prior to the fire.

At 75% containment, over 960,000 acres burned, and 1,200 structures destroyed, the Dixie Fire is already the largest wildfire in the history of California’s Sierra Nevada, and the first to cross the crest of the Sierra Nevada. While extreme fire behavior has left a path of destruction in some areas, including tragic losses to Sierra Nevada communities like Greenville, a combination of firefighting efforts and past fuel-management work has, so far, helped to protect park resources and historic infrastructure within Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The success of past projects reinforces the importance of forest health work in making the Sierra Nevada region resilient to increasingly common megafires.

“Although Lassen Park did have loss of several facilities that were burned, multiple structures and campgrounds were saved due to the fuels work that was completed,” Lassen Volcanic National Park Superintendent Jim Richardson said at a recent Sierra Nevada Conservancy Board Meeting.

Fire truck parked next to two cabins in a smoky forest. Firefighting equipment is staged next to the cabins.
Summit Lake Ranger Station and all structures in the Summit Lake Campground, remain intact in part due to successful interagency firefighting leveraging years of work to bolster the area’s wildfire resilience.

In June of 2018, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy awarded a grant to The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment to reduce high-fuel loads around the infrastructure, trails, roads, and the historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch within the park boundaries. The North Fork River Headwaters Forest Restoration Project also called for prescribed fire across the 1,600-acre Flatiron Ridge. Park officials say the project was pivotal in protecting park resources, including the popular guest ranch.

The work also benefited firefighting efforts on the broader landscape and may also prove to have positive ecological effects.

“There was moderated fire behavior that was very noticeable due to fuel reduction, previous natural and prescribed fires that provided safer options for firefighters to hold fire lines because of that work,” added Superintendent Richardson.

conifer forest with some trees cut down
Phase one of an SNC-funded project near Drakesbad Guest Ranch prepared this area for prescribed fire.

Located in scenic Warner Valley, Drakesbad Guest Ranch is a very popular summer tourist getaway that dates back to the turn of the twentieth century. Restoring resilience to more landscapes like the Lassen Volcanic National Park will protect both the ecological and economic vitality of the Sierra Nevada region and the benefits that it provides to all Californians.