I haven’t got much to say about the Camp Fire. Part of me is shocked but part of me is completely jaded. After writing about the fires all summer, it seemed we had finally turned the corner only to have this happen. After the Boles, Valley, Tubbs and CarrHirzDelta Fires, it seems like we should not be surprised that a fire would finally rise up and consume an entire town.
I headed up onto Mount Shasta today to see if I could catch a glimpse of the fire from higher up. The Old Ski Bowl may be closed off but the section of the road between Red Fir Flat and Bunny Flat still offers great views to the south. The view today was smoky, much as it was throughout the summer. This time there was a large plume rising above the haze, complemented by a dark pillow of smoke that kept changing shape. It was strangely peaceful but the knowledge of what was going on was sobering.
Here in Mount Shasta, the air was clear and everything was normal. I went back up this evening to see how it looked. Oddly enough, the air quality to the south had improved considerably. There was much less haze in the mountains south of Mount Shasta. The large plume rising up from the fire was also missing. This was encouraging, indicative of the fire’s slowing pace. Of course, just because it has slowed does not mean it is not dangerous. I am praying for Butte County, hoping that the fire grinds to a halt and the precipitation forecasted soon comes sooner than expected.
Even as I looked to the south, Mount Shasta remained as majestic and beautiful as ever.
As I write this, the fire has burned 90,000 acres and burned 6,500 homes and 260 commercial buildings. This will no doubt increase. It is like the Tubbs Fire all over again.
I have two thoughts regarding things that must be done to help prevent this from occurring again. First, we need to start burying our power lines. I am sure there are some that need to be hung but wherever possible, we need to put them in the ground. The Tubbs Fire and, most likely the Camp Fires were caused by down power lines. It won’t eliminate all risk but I think it will be a worthwhile endeavor.
Second is something that can be done closer to home. I think Siskiyou County needs to make it possible to dump brush and tree debris for free. This was done briefly after the great storm of January 2010 and it made cleaning up after that storm much more feasible. Now it will help incentivize clearing overgrown properties like mine. I recently received pictures taken 50 year ago of our cabin that is across the street from my house. It was essentially in a meadow with little vegetation but with far-reaching views. Now it is choked with trees. I intend to start clearing things out, clearing things out far beyond what Cal Fire has asked of us in the past (we have always gotten a perfect bill of health from Cal Fire, but the cabin has been dinged to have stuff cleaned up). I think making tree and brush debris easily disposed of would be a worthy investment from the county.
The Camp Fire is tragic. I pray it does not happen here in Mount Shasta or anywhere else. I know conditions are not good but I will remain hopeful that this was just a really, really bad year for fires.