In the past three years, the foothills of Butte and Plumas provinces have been devastated by wildfires. The Camp Fire (153,336 acres), North Complex Fire (318,935 acres) and the current Dixie Fire (240,585 acres) have burned nearly 712,856 acres since November 2018.
The fires are devastating and 101 people died in the three fires along with more than 21,301 structures.
The three fires destroyed the city of Paradise, communities of Concow, Berry Creek, parts of Butte Creek Canyon and Magalia, as well as structures within Highway 70 Corridor as part of the Dixie fires.
With all the area burned and the communities affected, the question becomes: what else needs to burn?
According to Rick Carhart, information officer for Cal Fire Press, there are many areas that still need to burn.
“You may think it’s true (there’s nothing left to burn), but it’s not true at all,” he said. ‘There are still areas that have not burned. This is still the case, even with the fires we have had over the past three years. ”
In Butte County, Carhart specifically noted that areas that have not burned in ‘decades’ are worrying, pointing to communities where people like Cohasset and Forest Ranch live as a source of concern for Butte County Cal Fire.
“This leads us to one of the things we do, and to be more proactive in making sure the areas are safe,” he said, pointing to the vegetative waste programs and fuel reduction projects. “We are trying to secure the areas so that if a fire breaks out in some of the areas that have not been burning for decades, it will not spread and become major disasters.”
He added that areas that had not seen fire for decades also meant they had built up decades of fuel growth.
But these are just not the areas of Cohasset and Forest Ranch, firefighters know that the areas that are burning today are areas that have burned in the recent past.
The 75,431-acre Chips Fire in 2012 burned a lot of fuel, as Carhart pointed out just nine years ago, and the Dixie Fire burned through the area again.
It also burned in the same area as the Storrie fire in August 2000, which burned 56,076 acres in the Feather River Canyon.
“It’s about the time (nine years after the Chips fire) that we’ve had enough fuel growth so we can get unmarked fires if that happens,” he said.
He also added that Campfire burned throughout the same places that caused arson in 23,334 acres of fire in 2008, in which the fire destroyed 87 homes and damaged another seven, destroyed 167 outbuildings and burned 100 cars.
“It was ten years old, but there was still enough brush-10 years of growth,” he said. ‘What we’re trying to do is go into those areas and treat them so we can not load the fuel in the area that will cause a fire in the communities.
But he added that a fire in the same area of the campfire would not cause the same damage, because just three years later, if a fire tries to go the same way because the fuel load is not the same.
“But in 10 years …”, he said.
Carhart said the perimeter of the Dixie Fire had not yet reached the perimeter of the northern complex.
However, there are areas that between the two perimeters are an area where fuel can occur.
He said the areas burned by the three major fires are needed to rebuild the growth, but that does not mean there is no potential for the fire.
In the case of the 240585-acre Dixie Fire, Carhart notes that it is the perimeter of the fire — it does not mean that everything is burned within the footsteps.
“It’s not all black,” he said.
And officials sometimes say that if there is a fire, there is a fire hazard and more flammable. This is due to drought and insects such as bark beetle.
While some trees survive the fire, they are compromised by the other factors and become a problem a few years later.
And although the Dixie Fire is more than 80,000 acres larger than Camp Fire, Carhart was the difference between the two in terms of the damage, where it burns.
He also added that the fact that more people are living in these areas is another factor that Cal Fire should take into account when fighting wildfires, as lifesaving is the top priority. As an example, the 1951 Milk Ranch Fire burned 21,979 acres, but forced the evacuation of 200 people from Bucks Lake. But today there are more people in those areas.
But Carhart notes that while everything seems to have burned, but it is not, so it’s important to understand that there is more fuel and fire danger in California.
“Last year in California, four million acres were burned, but there is something like 125 million acres in the state,” he said. “It was as if the whole state was on fire, but it was not.”