Sunday, June 5, 2022



CA BCDT - Post August Complex Fire Recon
Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Over the last several weeks, I had the opportunity to do my first large scale recon of areas that were impacted by the August Complex Fire.  As some of you know, on August 17, 2020 a severe lightning storm started 38 separate wildfires that eventually grew into what became known as the August Complex Fire. 

It was California’s first “Giga Fire” because it consumed over 1 million acres of private and public lands in or near the Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity, and Six Rivers National Forests.

Crest of FH7 - Pre August Complex Fire (circa 2015) 

Crest of FH7 - Post August Complex Fire (circa 2022)

For many of us who worked or recreated on lands within the burn footprint it was a devastating and life changing event.  Many important natural and cultural resources along with high value recreation assets were consumed by the firestorm and altered for generations to come.  

Entering August Complex Fire Burn Footprint off of Highway 36
Shasta-Trinity National Forest

As somebody who has done a lot of post-fire recovery volunteer work on forest lands over the last 20 years, I want to state my appreciation to fire and recreation staff who worked hard to mitigate hazard trees, replace damaged signs, and address other management issues in high-use areas such as campgrounds and along key routes.

  Intersection - Pre August Complex Fire (circa 2010)

                                                                           Intersection - Post August Complex Fire (circa 2022)

On the other hand, there are many areas in the burn footprint that basically appear as they did after the fire was extinguished almost two years ago.  Many signs are burned up completely or wording is not legible. Road or trail barriers have been destroyed and remain as they were when the fire crews left.

Part of Forest Spared from August Complex Fire
Shasta-Trinity National Forest - (circa 2022)

Unfortunately, the large number of recent mega-fires compounded by ongoing COVID mitigation measures, retirements, and high cost of living in certain regions continue to create capacity challenges as the agency works to address routine management efforts, fuel reduction projects, and their recreation program.

Pre August Complex Fire - Valley View LO
Mendocino National Forest - (circa 2017)

Post August Complex Fire - Valley View LO
Mendocino National Forest - (circa 2022)

While trail volunteer crews can and do make a difference, the lack of agency volunteer coordinators combined with the high cost of living and astronomical fuel prices - that volunteers must address - does make that partnership model less sustainable at least for the foreseeable future.

Looking South towards Snow Mountain Wilderness from FH7
Mendocino National Forest - (circa 2022)

Despite the many challenges and obstacles confronting us, we need to take time to appreciate what we still have and that is access to much of our backcountry road and trail network.  Sure, some of the views are not as “scenic” as they once were, but maybe we can envision what it will look like for the next generation.

Many of our favorite trails are still there and a blast to ride even though they are now lined with the charred remains of fir or pine trees.

Loss of Forest Canopy over Cold Creek - Post August Complex Fire
Mendocino National Forest - (circa 2022)

And, when we plan a volunteer project it needs to respect and maximize the time donated by our volunteer work force to help the agency continue to provide a high quality recreation experience.

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1 comment:

  1. The devastation is amazing. I imagine this was a very beautiful area before the fire. Sad.