The Dixie Fire made some moves today. Nothing on the west side really blew out more than a mile between 6:30 am and 6:30 pm, but there were a few noteworthy runs. The east side of the fire pushed up a towering column, and I think this kept the IR plane from getting in over the area west of Antelope Lake, because while weather satellite showed a lot of heat there. IR shows about a half mile of spread toward Antelope Lake. I suspect it ran more than that, but don’t have any authoritative data to back that up.
The Redding Record-Searchlight is reporting Drakesbad Guest Resort in Lassen Park has burned, but this evening’s IR intel contradicts that, showing the fire still about a mile to the east. However, the fire had burned about 1/2 mile toward Drakesbad in 12 hours today, so the Resort might be on the ground tomorrow afternoon, and the Redding paper will have been the first to break the news!
Fire continues to spread actively, though not rapidly, through Lassen Park. The blue areas in the middle of this image burned as managed wildfires in the mid 2000s. The green area on left burned in a prescribed natural fire in the late 1990s. There is a lot of talk in the media about managing fires for resource benefit after the Tamarack Fire got away south of Tahoe last month and became a large fire. The US Forest Service Chief has suspended all use of managed fire for the time being for the entire country. There is another fire to the west of this one that the Park decided to let burn in 2012, the Reading Fire. The Reading Fire also became a big deal after it decided to take a run off its leash into the surrounding National Forest and private lands. The Reading Fire is dark blue in the lower right-hand corner of this image.
Below is a view looking east over Viola on Highway 44, west of Lassen Peak (in center). The Dixie Fire is in the red outline at top of image, 18 miles east of huge expanses of private timberlands. We are 2 weeks out from our normal east wind season. We saw how fast the Dixie Fire moved across dense timberlands around Chester that have had no fires in 100 years. In similar fuels, there is no reason the Dixie Fire couldn’t burn to here in a matter of days with east winds.
But this is not the same forest as the area around Chester. It is higher elevation, has never been logged, and we have let fire play its role on this landscape with managed fires and prescribed burning. The 2012 Reading Fire in blue might provide a disruption in fuels that keeps the Dixie Fire from burning up thousands more acres of private timberlands and threatening communities west of Lassen Park.
Between high country of Lassen Range, lavafields to the north, and Reading Fire, we now have a ‘catchers mitt’ that may slow Dixie Fire which wasn’t there before NPS let the Reading Fire burn in 2012. Absent this action the previous forest wouldn’t have been obstacle to Dixie, as previous forests were thick enough for the Reading Fire to run 5 miles in 3 days.
Lassen Volcanic National Park managed fires and prescribed fires: 1984-2011. Source: 2021 Reading Fire Review.
Letting fires burn on the landscape under conditions that are benefiting the ecology of a place makes sense. Fire is the only tool we have that is up to the challenge of meeting the scale of the problems in our woods. Under the kinds of conditions we have seen in recent wildfires, thinning without fire is not enough. Since the invention and widespread adoption of mechanized tree harvesting equipment about 30 years ago, there has been an enormous amount of thinning done in the areas around Chester that burned last week with very high severity.
Fire is often beyond our control. The easiest time to put fires out is the time when they are actually doing the best work. A gentle fire burning slowly across the pine needles can be put out with your boot, no dozer required. So we put them all out until the days we can’t and after a hundred years of that, you get a fire like this. The most common reason we hear we can’t let fires burn in California is that there are too many people living here, and that a fire is bound to get away and burn up a town. Well, that’s what’s happening right now without letting fires run their natural course. We can’t keep fire off the land, and we can’t bend fire to our will so we can keep building wooden houses in its territory.
We have too many people living in the woods NOT use fire as our primary forest management tool. It’s all about picking the right conditions, and also, accepting the risk that some will get away. We don’t have the resources, access, infrastructure (labor, mill capacity, demand for small materials) to thin the entire landscape into a fire-resilient forest. So we need to focus our thinning and prescribed burning around our towns so when a fire we are managing for resource benefit DOES get away, it doesn’t terrorize the residents of entire counties, forcing thousands out of their homes for the whole summer. Fire needs its place on the land; and it won’t take no for an answer.
Fire continues to advance into mouth of Peters Creek, in North Arm Indian Valley. I don’t have good mapping of the hottest part of the fire to the east of here due to the big thunderheads that built up over the fire this afternoon.
The fire made a run one mile to the east near the 10 Road this afternoon. Probably kept going a ways – this area was still hot on the Dyer Mtn FLIR cameras at 9:30 pm, but I don’t have any map intel after 6:30 pm. This area of the fire north of Highway 36 between A-13 and Hwy 147 is critically dangerous until they get it lined and mopped up. A north wind on this flank could send fire down into the Peninsula and Hamilton Branch.
That’s all for now, thanks for your kind words and support. I know it might seem an insensitive time to say we need to burn our forests to save them, but if we can’t talk about this now, when can we? If we don’t get into better relation with fire, we won’t have any forests left to love or live in.