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.
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.
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.