The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection submitted a 45-Day Report to Governor Gavin Newsom that outlines 35 fuel-reduction projects it would like to immediately begin working on before fire season begins this summer. The report also outlined the most vulnerable communities to fire devastation in the state.
Shingletown, California, a beautiful mountain town known as “The Gateway to Lassen,” topped the list.
Listed as the Highway 44 Fuel Break, the report acknowledges the similarities between Shingletown and Paradise, California, which was completely decimated by the Camp Fire in November of 2018. Both communities are surrounded by forested areas, with housing susceptible to fire and the home of a large elderly population.
Shingletown and the three communities surrounding Highway 44 east of Redding include 1,124 acres with a population of 8,833 people and a fire risk score of 86 out of 100.
Other NorCal communities listed included West Redding, China Gulch near Happy Valley, Lake Shastina outside Weed, California and the area surrounding the North Fork American River.
The comprehensive plan calls to immediately 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.
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.