Wounded Sky … Carr Fire Update

Friday was another difficult day in Redding as the Carr Fire continued to spread. Overnight the fire grew toward the southwest near Igo and to the north of French Gulch.

 

Saturday morning

Our sky looks look toxic. Here are some views from the last two days.

Carr Fire smoke

The view from our backyard Thursday night

Carr Fire

The next photos were from Friday evening.

Carr Fire

Looking northwest, the major smoke cloud was moving east.

This was last nights view from the backyard.

The sun.

Looking north over the pond.

Where There’s Smoke

I was in the Trinities this week and there was thick smoke everywhere. It’s burning season in Northern California. We had quite a lot of rain in late November. I assumed that some agency was doing a large burn project. However, I couldn’t see where the smoke was coming from. It appeared to be drift smoke.

During my drive down from the mountains I heard a news report. They reported that smoke from the Thomas Fire was drifting up the coast. I checked Google Earth that evening and the smoke had drifted nearly 500 miles from the Thomas Fire in Southern California to north of Redding. The residue of so many homes and so much wildland was adrift in this smoke.

wildfire, forestry, smoke, Thomas Fire

The late afternoon sun filtering through the smoke in the Trinities.

Billys Peak, Trinity River, smoke, wildfire, Thomas Fire,

Looking north toward Billys Peak across the old dredge tailings along the Trinity River.

 

reflection, forest, sun, smoke

Smoke tinted sunlight and trees reflect on an old dredge pond.

Forestry Friday … “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”

Trinity County, wildfire, smokeIt’s August in California, with our typical forecast for this time of year, “sunny with 100% chance of SMOKE!” Large forest fires are burning up and down the state. The smoke is inescapable.

smoke, smoky, air quality

I was in the Northern Sierra near Stirling City earlier in the week. Smoky there too.

Air quality is often terrible this time of year due to the wildfires. Lighting, drought, denser forests and changing fire fighting tactics have created conditions that foster massive wildfires. Resistance to harvesting timber on our federal forests has made it difficult to thin the National Forests. Thinning forests to reduce fuels isn’t being accomplished at the level that is needed. That in turn has caused the Forest Service to adopt a “manage the fire” approach to fire fighting. These fires burn at such higher intensity that the fire crews are forced to back way off in order to keep safe. Direct attack is nearly impossible. This makes the fires grow even bigger.

drought, wildfire, Trinity Lake

Drought is making our immediate problem much worse. Trinity Lake is somewhere back there.

Thinning these forests over large tracts of land would solve several problems. It reduces the amount of fuel that feeds these huge fires. It lowers the burn intensity of the fires making them easier to fight. Fewer trees on the landscape increases the ground and surface water by reducing demand on the water table. God knows we need more water in California. Trees have less competitive stress, which reduces tree mortality from drought and insect attack. With fewer weakened trees dying there is less dry, heavy fuel created in the form of snags and downed logs.

snag, forestry, wildfire

That snag is a lightening rod just waiting for a bolt.

In many ways were are loving these forests to death. The forests are set up to burn because we don’t want to manage them. Too many people don’t want any trees cut down. The conventional wisdom that “leaving the forest untouched” creates a healthy ecosystem is wrong. Would you not weed your garden? We are the stewards of these forests and it’s our responsibility to care for them. Otherwise, we are creating a forest of dead trees.

Looking toward the Trinity Alps.

Looking toward the Trinity Alps.

This is how the view is on a clear day.

This is how the view is on a clear day.

Bliss says after a smoky day in the woods there’s nothing like a dip in a cool mountain stream.

golden retriever, Bliss

A pool made for a puppy!

Bliss says, "much better."

Bliss says, “much better.”

Forestry Friday … Burn Baby Burn!

There’s fire in the woods again!

slash, logging, forestry, burning, controlled burning, prescribed burning, fuel reduction

Burning slash in a logging unit. A forester favorite Fall pastime.

Not like the Summer wildfires this time. This burning is for fuel reduction after logging. It’s part of our Fall preparation for tree planting. We prefer chipping slash and hauling it to the co-generation plant where it can be turned into electricity. In some areas that option isn’t available so we have to burn the slash on site. Getting rid of the slash reduces the fuel load for future wildfires that may occur. It also releases nutrients into the soil in the form of ash. Those nutrients give a boost to the young seedlings that will be planted at the site in the Spring.

broadcast burn, forestry, burn piles

On flat ground the slash is often piled for burning. In this unit the entire site is burned, which is called a broadcast burn.

We aren’t trying to get rid of all debris within units, but we want to reduce it to a reasonable level. A certain amount of slash and debris left unburned acts as impediments to erosion. Over time it breaks down adding organic material back into the soils. However, too much debris creates a fuel load that will support an aggressive wildfire.

inversion, smoke, prescribed fire, burning operation, forestry

This smoke column rises over Trinity Lake and has reached an inversion layer causing the smoke to flatten out.

Burning is only allowed on specific days when weather conditions are right. We avoid conditions that are too dry in which fire can escape. We also have to be aware of what direction the smoke is being carried on the wind to avoid smoking out populated areas. In California we’re required to prepare smoke management plans to determine what conditions are appropriate for burning as to not create a smoke hazard for local areas.

golden retriever

I had a companion on this day. Tessa, our friend’s dog, got to be a forester’s dog for a day.

Fall is traditionally incredibly busy around here and this season has been no different. Things are starting to wind down so hopefully there will more time for posting.

 

Sun, Smoke and Oak

Sun, Sunset, fire, wildfire, smoke, photography

The sun through the smoke.  Yes, that is the sun and not the moon.

The first big wildfires of the season broke out here yesterday.  The Panther and Cedar fires were burn a ways to the South and just a few miles apart.  With a strong dry North wind they made a good run.  A huge column of smoke stretched over the valley and the sun was obscurred last night when I took these pictures.  Hopefully the firefighters made good progress last night when the winds died down.

Sun, Sunset, fire, wildfire, smoke, photography

Sun through the smoke and oaks.

May first and we are already seeing forest fires.  Dry down is well underway here.  This doesn’t bode well for this Summer’s fire season.  Here we go again.

Wildfire Returns to Northern California

The Ponderosa Fire from across the valley.

Fire is upon the North State once again.  It has been a few years since we have had fire like this.  Thousands of our neighbors have had to evacuate their homes.  The air is thick with smoke.  The firefighters, air attack, and equipment operators battle the fires to protect life and property.  Please keep the folks in the paths of these fire in you thoughts and prayers.

Image

From Firestorm In The Forest, a Redtail Publishing Book.

I opened my front door this morning to let the dog out, and the air is clouded with smoke and the smell or fire is strong.  The Ponderosa Fire is burning about 15 miles from where I am sitting.  As this drama unfolds the picture of the forest that I worked on for years is rapidly changing.  Thinned timberstands, young tree plantations and acres of mature forests that I help manage.  For people the fire is a tragedy, but to nature it isn’t good or bad only different.  Nature is violently changing the picture of this forest that I remember.  It will re-calibrate and fill the void created by the fire and a new picture is created.  In the meantime the foresters and loggers work side by side with firefighters to stop this fire.