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From the May 2012 Battle Mountain News

posted Jul 3, 2014, 2:03 PM by Joe Christy

Fuel Breaks – Shaded and Shrubland

Near Pine Flat we have constructed a 75' wide shaded fuel break. In other words, we removed the fallen branches and much of the under story shrubbery, leaving a few selected trees to grow up and replace older trees as they die. To further eliminate ladder fuels which would allow fire to move from the ground, where it can be controlled, to the crown, where it cannot, we have limbed up the remaining larger trees. While thinned, most of the canopy remains to shade the ground and hinder the re-growth of the flammable under story. As you hike into the park, take time to notice both the bio-diversity at the edge of the forest, and the marked resemblance of the fuel break to the open space within the healthy mature redwood groves further back.

Near Sunlit Lane we are working in one of the most rare and sensitive habitats in the County, Maritime Chaparral. Chaparral has evolved with fire over millennia and requires fire for its health. Without a tree canopy, we aim to preserve islands of healthy and mature shrubbery in a 75' buffer, while interrupting the continuity of fuel and the spread of fire.

We will continue to work this summer on the private properties in between Empire Grade and Sunlit Lane and on another fuel break along Empire Grade between Pineridge and the quarry. The property to the Northwest of Empire Grade and Pine Flat demonstrates what the fuel break will look like on private homesteads.

These are the first steps of a long process along all of Empire Grade with two goals: 1) make it safer for residents to evacuate and firefighters to reach Bonny Doon in a major wildfire, and 2) provide space to make a strategic stand against wildfires crossing Empire Grade into inhabited areas. Next Fall and Winter we will undertake a third fuel break around Braemoor and along the frontage of the ex-Cemex timberlands on Empire Grade.

Why and How We Are burning in May

One thing that you are sure to notice in Fall Creek are the remaining burn and feeder piles. Late rains and long paperwork prevented us from finishing the clearing work in time (30-60 days) to cure that cut material before the recent end of burn season. In the chaparral, burning down to mineral soil is critical for ecosystem health. A second goal of our project, was creating space for prescribed fire to rejuvenate the precious chaparral on land held in trust for the public.

We are working with CAL FIRE and the Air District to obtain permits and implement a smoke reduction plan to burn those piles in mid to late May. Our careful plans will insure that the burns are monitored, contained and extinguished by trained firefighters with engines. The fire management community has learned a lot since the Loma fire of 2010, and new techniques and standards reflect those lessons. The smoke management plan will ensure that obnoxious smoke and irritating particulate matter are absolutely minimized. Working with State Parks we will recreate, in a controlled setting, the revitalization of our unique chaparral that the uncontrolled Martin Fire brought to the Ecological Reserve.

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