Though nearly everything else burned, a little fall color clings to the banks of the Sacramento River.
On Friday I had to drive down to Redding early in the morning to take care of some business. Once done, I had the opportunity to drive back up to Mount Shasta at my leisure. This afforded me the opportunity to pause along I-5 and take stock of the damage done by the Delta Fire in greater detail than I have had the chance to do thus far. What I saw was supremely interesting, both in terms of the damage caused by the fire and the efforts to begin the area’s healing process that were well underway.
With regards to the damage caused by the fire, in some ways it does not seem so extensive. The burned scar extends for about 8 miles along I-5, from Delta to the Gibson exit. Within this burned area there are large patches of trees that escaped the flames and are now green oasis amidst a sea of red, orange and brown. Where the fire did consume the forest, it still does not seem very extensive. However, this is only because the vast areas that were burned are hidden further to the east and west, hidden by the low ridges that run parallel to the river. Back in these drainages, there are tens of thousands of acres that have been burned. In spite of the hidden damage, there are areas along the freeway that have been utterly devastated. Forests of black snags line the hillsides, stark evidence of what the fires will do.
There is an intense amount of activity in the areas along the freeway. Major logging operations seemed to have commenced as soon as the fire was contained. The burned trees are being cleared out swiftly. Most of the easily observed activity is happening along the freeway. Trees are being cut, many are being chipped and the mulch is being spread liberally along the hillsides, embankments and elsewhere along the freeway. Larger trees are being harvested, no doubt for commercial use. Higher up above the river, more logging operations are visible, though it is a little harder to track the activity deep in the canyons that spur off the main trough of the Sacramento River. No doubt erosion is a chief concern as we head into winter.
The most encouraging thing that I saw was the number of structures that were saved from the flames. Homes were still standing, each surrounded by a small island of green trees. Around them the flames had swarmed but the firefighters made a valiant stand amidst the storm. Most heartening was the old station at Pollard Flat, which is back in business and a hub of activity as loggers and other recovery workers enjoy its vittles. Behind the restaurant was a striking indication of how close the whole operation came to destruction. The fence stretching from the station down towards the river had been burned as the flames approached the building. However, efforts were made to save Pollard Flat and, though the fence was initially burned, as it neared the building it seemed as if nothing had happened.
It will be a few years before we see what the canyon will look like for the next decade or so. The new normal is already taking shape. Let us pray that this is the last big fire we have in this area.
Delta Fire Gallery (click to enlarge):