Here is a great map made by our friend Peter Hansen showing the Dixie Fire‘s spread across Lassen Park. As we have discussed in length on previous posts, the 2012 Reading Fire was a managed wildfire that escaped control and burned out of the park. Nine years later, the Reading played a major role in significantly slowing the spread of the Dixie. This bought the firefighters time to focus their energies on major firing operations they had undertaken to protect Westwood, Susanville, Janesville and the communities around Lake Almanor. When the fire finally did get across the Reading Fire scar and took off again toward the north, it only burned for about three days before rainfall knocked it down.
Had the Reading Fire not been there, it’s likely the Dixie Fire would have traveled across the park in a matter of days, instead of taking two weeks. This would have happened in the last week of August, right when the Dixie Fire fire lost personnel to the Caldor Fire as it burned into South Lake Tahoe on the evening of August 30, 2021.
As we have seen over and over: Recent burns and wildfires are one of the only things that help stop megafires. We have to think large-scale with our prescribed fires, and be willing to take some risks with managed wildfire. Though it was considered a failure when it escaped in 2012, the Reading Fire likely kept the Dixie Fire from burning at least an additional 100,000 acres, if not more.
The map below shows where we had heat on the ground when the Dixie Fire first got to the 2012 Reading Fire area (blue in in upper left of Lassen Park) on August 25, 2021. Major firing operations on Highway 36 between Chester and Westwood, along A-21 north of Westwood, and east of Fredonyer Summit on Highway 36 were still very hot. We also had active firefighting in Genesee Valley and near Milford.
Here is a photo of the Reading Fire, as seen from the Lassen Park Road on September 10, 2021. The snags in this photo were killed during the 2012 fire. The Dixie Fire burned with low intensity in this area.