This fire season in California has been epic in the worst possible way. Not only did we have the state’s largest recorded wildfire, the Ranch Fire, but we’ve had the most destructive fire, the Camp Fire. During any prior year the Carr fire would have been the most destructive fire in California, but this year has been exceptionally bad for wildfires.
I was out checking in on one of our salvage logging contractors on the Carr Fire last week. The timber salvage operations are well under way. Click on the gallery of images to read about it.
This view is from the Highland Ridge Road looking down at the Community of French Gulch. Over the course of a couple weeks the fire made a run at the town three separate times. Many homes were destroyed.
The Carr Fire left hundreds of millions of board feet of dead timber in it’s wake.
It’s like a ghost forest.
Bark beetles immediately invaded the fire killed trees. In the spring they will spread the many of the surviving trees.
This is one of many of our salvage loggers. It is imperative to get the wood to the mills as fast as we can. It begins to deteriorate as soon as it’s dead. The tractor is skidding trees to the processor,. The processor cuts the trees into logs, while the loader sorts the logs into decks.
Here the processor manufactures trees into logs.
A couple of big logs waiting to be skidded into the landing.
On steeper ground we use track laying skid cats to move the trees to the landing. The land around Redding that burned is very steep.
The logs get sorted by size and species while waiting to be delivered to the mill.
The trees don’t always burn completely during the fire, but the heat alone is enough to kill them.
This part of the forest had been thinned before the fire. By spacing out the remaining trees the fire burned at a lower intensity. The fire wasn’t as hot, the flames were smaller, and the remaining trees were resilient enough to survive the fire. Thinning these trees in a logging operation saved them.
Even now, weeks after the fire was contained there are still hot spots out in the burn. We may still find some hot spots in the spring.
Since I wrote this post the rains began in earnest. Our fire season has come to brutal end.
The black birds hop from log to log. All the while, tilting their heads to and fro. Then after a brief pause they reach into the bark, and with surgical precision, pluck out a squirming grub. Then with heads thrown back they swallow the grub with the ease of an Olympic gymnast dismounting from a balance beam.
Hunting grubs on the burned logs.
This goes on all day in our log yard. As the logs from the fire salvage operations pour into the yard, so do the black birds. The swarm the logs for this feast of opportunity. Sometimes they engage in black bird battles for dominion over some particularly grub infested log. I think these birds get fatter every day. Soon they may not be able to fly.
Burned logs delivered to the log yard.
Salvage logging continues at break neck speed. The beetles invading the logs are an indicator of the oncoming decay. Next will be stain, splitting and then rot. Time and decay are our enemies. The black birds are a constant reminder of the ticking clock.
Ponderosa burn fire salvage. Where have all the squirrels gone?
The race is on. Salvage operations on the Ponderosa Burn are now underway. They race to harvest the fire killed timber and deliver it to the mills before it breaks down, and loses it’s value. The small landowners managed their timberlands to provide additional income, maintain healthy timber stands, and create an attractive forest. This fire has changed their management plans. If they don’t recover the value of the timber they will have no money for reforestation. The large timber companies will replant their lands as a part of normal operations. Replanting fire damaged timberlands in California is not required by law due to the massive cost it represents. The timber companies replant after these fires because it is good stewardship and good business.
The landscape on the big canvas is being repainted as this latest transformation begins. Fire was the first paint brush to change the canvas. Men and their machines are the next one.