Adaptive Strategies in the Face of California Wildfires

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you know that this has been a volatile wildfire season, especially in California’s Region 5 forests. GBI has crews located in our national forests throughout the state, and these fires have certainly forced our crews and GBI management to engage in adapted measures, including cessation of field work and relocation of personnel. Although the situation remains dynamic, we wanted to provide you with an overview of our current actions. At present, we continue to monitor wildfire conditions throughout the West, with special attention to being paid to the developing situation in Sequoia National Forest.

Far Northern California: Salt, Monument, Lava, River Complex, McCash, House, and Antelope fires:

  • These fires are affecting Whiskeytown archaeology, Whiskeytown vegetation, and Klamath crews due to smoke and unhealthy air quality. The House fire caused evacuation of crew for a short period of time due to proximity to park headquarters and field sites. Three members of the vegetation team have completed their terms of work, but one remains on site.  The McCash fire has led to an evacuation warning for the Happy Camp botany crew on the Klamath National Forest. The Antelope fire impacted Klamath invasives crews that were based in the area of Redwoods, then Lava Beds.

Northern Sierra: Dixie and Beckwourth fires:

  • A crew in Lassen National Forest (three people) has been impacted by smoke. Worksites have been threatened but work has not been suspended. The Dixie Fire made a run through the crew’s most recent project site. The crew’s work has continued in a safer part of the forest to work in. The Kalamath stream survey crew (three people) that were based out of housing in Lassen Volcano National Park have been moved to Crater Lake in Oregon due to impacts from the Dixie fire.
  • In Plumas National Forest, two crews have been affected at the Feather River Ranger District on the West side of the forest, and at the Beckwourth Ranger District on the East side of the forest. Both crews were moved at various points to work on the other district to avoid the Beckwourth and Dixie fires. Due to the Dixie fire, the Feather River crew experienced poor air quality and safety concerns in regards to project sites. The Mt. Hough/Beckwourth crew eventually disbanded, the member redeployed to Tahoe National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, and Lassen National Forest. The two-person cadastral crew was also evacuated from the area following the first reports of the Beckwourth.
  • Tahoe National Forest crews, totaling nineteen individuals, have been impacted by smoke and field operations were suspended at times due to severe air quality issues as a result of Dixie and Caldor fires.

Central Sierra: Caldor fire:

  • All Eldorado National Forest operations were interrupted at some point due to this fire, affecting nine people total. Five have been permitted to resume work (TSI and Assistant culturists). Two (Wildlife) ended their season early but the wildlife technician joined a crew in Sequoia. Another two (TSP) have been temporarily moved to the Tahoe National Forest until further notice. Four recreation techs were all exited early and their season is now over.
  • Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit operations were also totally suspended due to the Caldor. Recreation Techs (four people) were all exited early and their season is now over. Cadastral Crew (two people), were also displaced and will not return to the Basin. They are currently working on the Tahoe and Stanislaus. Of our archeology crew, two left early and three have been moved to Sequoia National Forest for temp work until return is possible. It remains unclear if their season will continue. From the forestry, two individuals were suspended until further notice, and two have moved to Tahoe National Forest until they can return to the Basin. 

Southern Sierra: French, Walkers, Windy and KNP Complex fires:

  • Smoke from all fires have impacted work. The Lower Peppermint campground used by numerous crews has been evacuated due to the Windy fire and the archaeology crew is considering contingency plans to evacuate crews from Grouse Valley housing. The Windy Fire is within ~5 miles of active monitoring sites for the Carnivore Monitoring project (Pacific SW Region). Crew supervisors are currently scheduling alternative activities for impacted crews. Forest closures have been issued for the public through the end of the year near the Castle Fire Hazard Tree project area. The GBI archaeology crew has been moved to office work temporarily.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Gilbertson

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