The Shasta-Trinity National Forest is planning a large-scale prescribed fire project called the Trinity Alps Wilderness Prescribed Fire Project. This project plans to treat 19,000 acres of the landscape in order to return fire to the area in a way that will create strategic opportunities for future wildfire response. The project will help protect nearby communities and valuable resources by reducing fuel loads in wildfire prone areas.
The Trinity Alps Wilderness is a vast landscape known for its remote areas of steep, rugged terrain and stunning backcountry lakes. It is also a landscape known for its recent history of large, high-severity wildfires. The 1999 Big Bar complex, 2006 Bar complex, 2008 Iron-Alps complex and 2015 River complex are all examples of large, fires in the western Alps.
These large fires were fueled by dense vegetation resulting after many years of aggressive fire suppression. In turn these fires also left a large amount of dead and down debris.
“The large patches of heavy dead and down woody debris will likely lead to a continued cycle of large fires with large high severity patches,” explained Forest Fire Ecologist Kevin Osborne. “These large fires are more intense, and more difficult to control, especially in the western half of the Trinity Alps.”
Historically the area experienced frequent fires of lower severity. Frequent naturally-occurring fires were kept in check by sparser fuel and landscape features, such as streams and ridges, which impeded fire spread. Without this natural fire cycle, forest vegetation has become increasingly dense to the point where fires can spread more easily over greater areas, and burn with greater intensity. Large, naturally fire-resistant trees are increasingly at risk from abnormally large areas burning with high severity effects.
“Historically, our forests are adapted to, and in fact depend on, mild fire to remain healthy and resilient in the face of things like drought, insects and wildfires,” said Trinity River Management Unit District Ranger Joe Smailes. “Applying prescribed fires under the right conditions that will allow consumption of existing fuels will help restore the historical resilient conditions of the landscape. Furthermore, after years of planning I am excited to see the project move forward as the Trinity Alps Wilderness becomes an increasingly popular destination.”
The preliminary Environmental Assessment for the Trinity Alps Wilderness Prescribed Fire Project is available for a 30-day comment period. More information on the project including instructions for commenting can be found on the Forest website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=30965, or you can contact Stephanie Riess at the Weaverville Ranger Station at firstname.lastname@example.org (530) 623-1755.