Landowners and government agencies are working to prevent the spread of wildfires by thinning forests

(KTXL) — Fire is a natural part of a forest’s life cycle, but as more people choose to move into the woods, a lot of effort is being put into preventing fires from starting. .

As a result, the forests become very dense – thick with trees and brush.

Add years of drought to the mix when these forests catch fire, the fierce flames can be very difficult to stop.

“So our crews can’t hook up right next to 40ft flames. It’s just not safe,” said Morgan Moore, assistant forester at Cal Fire.

FOX40 caught up with Moore at a site north of Nevada City where crews are thinning a heavily overgrown forest.

“The main reason we’re doing this is that we’re just trying to reduce the fuel load here, especially near the access roads for local residents, because we don’t want the fire to start in one area and spread. continue to another area,” Moore said. Explain. “So this is part of a shady fuel cut project.”

In a project like this, some trees are removed entirely.

Those that remain are stripped of their lower branches – the so-called ladder fuels, which fire can easily climb.

Forest thinning aims to ensure that the fire spreads slowly and close to the ground.

“Firefighters, crews and bulldozers can get to it in a more accessible way and can actually shut it down,” Moore said.

Forest management is often a group effort between cooperating agencies.

“I am thrilled with what Cal Fire, the Yuba Watershed Institute and BLM are doing,” said Nevada County resident Jo Ann Fites-Kaufman.

Fites-Kaufman applauds this effort as a resident and holder of a doctorate in fire science.

“People want to keep their privacy screens on. They want to keep their trees. And I have a totally opposite perspective,” Fires-Kaufman said. “I can see the flames in my mind after working on forest fires. I can see them crossing the road when I look at a forest.

But, what she sees now when she looks down her road is an opportunity for firefighters to defend her neighborhood should a fire occur.

When a forest is thinned, what is removed is piled up for residents to take what they want for firewood. The rest is burned by Cal Fire when the conditions are right.

South of Colfax in Placer County, a Cal Fire crew was busy last week igniting piles at a mitigation project there.

“It’s between the rim of the canyon and Colfax. So it’s a huge asset for us to be able to help protect Colfax on the American River side,” said Cal Fire Captain Colin Carmichael.

Carmichael explained that great care is taken to ensure targeted and controlled burns do not escape.

“So we cut the line around the pile before burning it and putting a berm at the bottom, so anything that rolls gets stuck there. And then make sure they’re out before they go,” Carmichael said “And we have all of our firefighting tools with us in case we have something escaping, and we can put it out.”

Around Lake Tahoe, people would like to see more snowfall. But this season’s dry spell actually provides the perfect opportunity for crews to do much of that work.

“You can see my fireman right there, going in the center and trying to get the center forward, where that’s the driest part,” said Capt. David DeLeon of the United States Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management. Unity.

The burned piles near Tahoe City are part of a U.S. Forest Service project under DeLeon’s supervision.

“So if we had cut almost nothing, we wouldn’t be able to see through the forest,” DeLeon said.

This land is very close to a house belonging to Chris Thibaut, who said he has spent a lot of time on the phone over the years with several government agencies asking for the woods around his house to be cleared.

“The property line is right here – it changes to American forest. It’s State Park over there. Conservatory on the front. Conservatory to the side. And so you deal with all the different guys to make sure they come to take care of it,” Thibaut told FOX40.

He is thrilled to see the US Forest Service doing this work.

“Boy, this is a great sight for me after all these years of being nervous and scared of what’s going on,” Thibaut said.

Thinning similar areas is the subject of some debate – a tussle between people who say forests should be left alone and those who say a lot more thinning needs to be done.

President Joe Biden’s administration recently announced a 10-year, $50 billion plan to reduce wildfire risk through forest thinning and controlled burns in California and 10 other western states.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s latest budget proposal includes an additional $1.2 billion for this type of work.

But it is also up to the owners to do their part. Thibaut was not content to rely on the work of others; he made his property more secure.

“He’s done a great job cleaning up around his house, getting people to come in and getting all that fuel out of his house,” DeLeon told FOX40.

“Even everyone in their own backyard can pull off some fuel and get that 100-foot defensible space around their house, which makes our job easier,” Moore explained. “And, if we make that effort here with different cooperating agencies, then that effort coupled with the effort of private landowners will create a better landscape to defend and protect us from fires.”

Forest thinning is a real team effort that could save land and lives for a long time.

Ashley C. Reynolds