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Helicopters Used To Log Darby Burn

The U.S. Forest Service is actively reducing potential wildfire fuels on approximately 3,600 acres of Stanislaus National Forest lands that burned during the 2001 Darby fire.

As laid out in the draft environmental impact statement, the Brown Darby Fuel Reduction Project consists of a number of “treatments” for the burned area, and for forest areas located between the Darby burn and the national forest boundary near Highway 4.

Forest Service officials contracted with Sierra Pacific Industries for this third phase of its scheduled restoration work. The first two phases of the four-phase project were completed in the fall of 2001. The first phase was emergency rehabilitation, which included erosion control drainages. The second phase was identifying and removing hazardous trees along roads. Logging treatments for fuel reduction include tractor, cable and helicopter removal of large trees on about 2,300 acres.

The helicopter is used on areas with identified archeological significance. It is also used to reduce erosion and the need to build logging roads. Four hundred acres are being harvested by helicopter.

Helicopter project manager Gary Hammitt said a Chinook helicopter will be out this week to lift the heavier logs that the Vertol helicopter, currently in operation, is unable to lift. Pilot Benny Kleven said each pilot can fly a maximum of six hours each day.

Cables are also being used to remove trees on steep slopes as a way to prevent soil erosion. Trees on 300 acres are being removed using cable systems.

The tractor logging is the primary way that logs are being removed on 1,600 acres. A grapple loader tractor is used to grab the logs and transport them. Larger logs are hauled to a sawmill in Standard. Smaller logs are sent to the Chinese Camp mill.

“Ponderosa and Sugar pines make up for 80 percent of the trees that were burned,” said Aileen Palmer, Forest Service district biologist. Cedar and white fir make up for the other trees that were burned.

Trees that are logged and deemed unusable for the sawmill will used for commercial pulpwood, biomass fuel for electric co-generation plants, personal-use firewood, or cut, piled and burned, or chipped and scattered on site.

Additional treatments consist of brush removal, controlled, or prescribed, burns and tree thinning.

The Darby Fire started Sept. 5, 2001, near the Stanislaus River, south of Avery. It burned 14,000 acres of national forest and private lands before it was contained 11 days later on Sept. 16. The Forest service concluded the fire was started by sparks from an abandoned campfire.

Calaveras Enterprise Story by Vanessa Turner

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