Since October of 2017, Northern California has fallen victim to the two most destructive fires in California history (Tubbs Fire, Camp Fire), with one also being the most deadly (Camp Fire). In response to the recent devastation, CalFire has released a report that would dramatically increase its forest management efforts with help from the National Guard.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection released a list of 35 fuel-reduction projects it would like to immediately begin working on before fire season begins this summer. The plan calls to reduce fuels in roughly 90,000 acres across the state, which is double what it budgeted for in its fiscal year. In order to coordinate the projects, Cal Fire has enlisted the National Guard for help.
The projects will include removing dead trees, clearing vegetation, and creating fuel breaks, defensible spaces and ingress and egress corridors, depending on the situation of the specific region.
The 35 projects will bring fire protection to over 200 communities, with a priority on fire prone areas like Redding and in rural Butte County, where fires devastated entire communities in 2018. The projects will also work to reduce fire dangers around vulnerable groups like the elderly and poor communities.
CalFire estimates that over 15 million acres of land in California is susceptible to wildfire, so these projects are just a start. But with the national media giving attention to the 2018 fires and federal government officials urging California to thin its forests, the projects show a new enthusiasm for fuel reduction.
Although the move is celebrated by most, executives of the Sierra Club California, a conservation group, are calling the moves shortsighted. Sierra Club Director Kathryn Phillips blamed the fires on high winds and says CalFire should focus on clearing brush immediately around homes and ensuring their roofs and attics are safe from flying embers.
“We need to make sure we’re doing the things that we know will protect homes,” Phillips told the Associate Press.
In response to this criticism, CalFire has called on officials to identify options on retrofitting homes in fire-prone areas. That report will be released later this year.