Tuesday, 18 June 2024

First phase of forest fire prevention project completed

Cal Fire crews work to complete cleanup along the Black Forest edge last week. Photo by Joel Witherell.


BLACK FOREST – The first phase of the Black Forest demonstration project was completed last week, thanks to additional help from state and local officials, and community volunteers.

The project has been going on since last month, and was aimed at creating a fire break along Soda Bay Road at the forest's edge.

On Wednesday, proud and exhausted members of Cal Fire's Konocti 5 Unit climbed into their big red truck and headed home for dinner and to be ready to fight a fire tomorrow rather than prevent one today. The young men even took time out to rescue some wild turkey eggs and build a nest for them and the mother turkey, using some of the cut branches.

Cal Fire was joined by three chipping operators Ray and David Mostin, Adam Nichols and Jack Paulin; volunteers Hans Dobusch and Kathy Johnson from the Big Valley Lions Club; Buckingham Homes Association volunteers Kris Perkins, Gail Dyne, Wayne and Jodelle Scott, and Neil and Bobbi Towne. All of them worked very hard to finish the Black Forest Fire Prevention Phase I work started during Earth Day Week in April.

The Black Forest has begun to be transformed back to the way it looked before Soda Bay Road was constructed and the "new sunlight " allowed the underbrush to grow unmitigated along the road.

The former canopy of the large Black Forest trees caused firefighters to nickname it the "asbestos forest" because it stayed moist all year round due to its northeast exposure. Only one fire that got "nowhere" in 1950 can be remembered. The 15-foot-high rocks always stayed green from moss, until recently.

However, the road construction that allowed our family to buy a home in the Black Forest also created a detrimental change in the road environment leading to a critical fire danger level.

The formerly held private property owners were not held to a fire safety standard that is expected today in Lake County. Undergrowth awaited the fire of a cigarette or an overheated car to engulf the forest in fire and destroy the $650,000 investment of both public tax money and donations, and possibly the neighboring subdivisions.

The recent LA Zoo fire is a reminder of how fragile our open space is due to both deferred maintenance and careless smokers.

When the 250-acre forest property was transferred to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in September 2004, a "fire prevention prescription" was adopted calling for removal of the unmitigated underbrush. The plan calls for ultimately removing 300 feet of underbrush from the road. Pine and Douglas fir over 3 inches and all sizes of oak and madrone trees were maintained, with only limbs removed up to 10 feet. This is to prevent fire laddering and may allow fire personnel to extinguish the fire before it gets out of control.

Phase I removed 100 feet of underbrush along an estimated 75 percent of the portion of Soda Bay Road adjacent to the forest.

Phase II, which will continue cleaning up the forest and making it safe from fire, is scheduled to begin Saturday, September 29, as part of National Public Lands Day, if volunteers continue with their support and BLM is able to continue with financial support. BLM paid for all costs for Cal Fire services, chipping and support for the volunteers who have worked for the past month on the project.

On May 11 a celebration of Phase I and an informal discussion of Phase II took place in Buckingham, across from the forest.

Contact Joel Witherell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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