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Preventing Catastrophic Wildfires With Public’s Help

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Arnold, CA — How to reduce the risk of a catastrophic wildfire in the Mother Lode is the topic of a Zoom seminar next week with questions being taken by a U.C. Berkeley fire expert who says the next mega-fire could be in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

The Calaveras Big Trees Association (CBTA) is hosting the meeting next Monday evening, April 18, from 6-7 p.m. The main topic will be to address how to better manage the forests that surround and border many Mother Lode communities to prevent mega-fires, which have incinerated small towns all over California in the past three years.

“Fire scientists say that what stopped the fires in their tracks in the Sequoia National Park and Caldor fires near South Lake Tahoe last year was coming up to a healthy part of the forest where it had been carefully managed, thinned and all the dry vegetation removed,” said Dr. Vida Kenk, president of CBTA, the non-profit partner of Calaveras Big Trees State Park. “That was a teaching lesson—and why it’s imperative we work year-round to keep our state and federal forests healthy.”

The keynote speaker is renowned UC Berkeley fire scientist Dr. Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science who directs the Stephens Lab at the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley. The association noted that in 2019, Cal Fire put Arnold on a list of small towns with the greatest potential for a catastrophic fire. In a webinar, last fall, after the Big Basin State Park mega-fire, Dr. Stephens was asked, “What state park is best poised to be the next big basin?” He answered, “Calaveras Big Trees.” During the seminar, he will explain why forest restoration—including forest thinning, mechanical fuel reduction, and prescribed burns—is crucial to keeping our forests healthy. He will also talk about how the public can prevent the risk of these catastrophic wildfires.

Pointing to recent efforts to reduce fire fuels, association officials noted that just last week a town hall meeting was held by Calaveras Big Trees State Park staff outlining plans to reduce wildfire risk. One effort underway is a planned 1300-acre prescribed burn of the park’s South Grove, home to over 1,100 giant sequoias, for later this month, weather permitting.

“The massive fuels buildup in the park today reflects how quickly forests can become overwhelmed with dangerously combustible vegetation and standing dead trees, and overcrowded with conifers that need to be thinned,” Dr. Kenk said. “By increasing the pace and scale of fuels treatments, we can create healthy, fire-resilient forests, which is particularly important for our precious giant sequoias. We’re grateful for all that the talented Park staff are doing to accomplish this.”

The Zoom seminar link is https://bit.ly/3rcmd15 or click here. For more information, call 209-283-4801 or email cbta@bigtrees.org.

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