YREKA, Cali. -- Officials at the Klamath National Forest are using these winter months to prepare for the wildfire season by having prescribed pile burns to eliminate fire fuels.
These pile burns are a part of the Craggy Vegetation Management Project. Clint Isbell is the Forest Fire Ecologist at the Klamath National Forest and he said firefighters from the Salmon/Scott River Ranger District have been helping them gather and burn branches and other brush that would typically cause a wildfire to spread quickly.
"What we do is we first go out there and manually thin some of the strategic areas, right around homes and private lands, along with Ridge tops, which are strategic areas for future fire suppression, as well as for prescribed fire," Isbell said. "And then we'll put that material into piles and then we'll burn those piles typically during the portions of the year where it's wetter and safer for that activity to occur."
He said the Craggy Project is entirely on federal system lands that is administered by the Klamath National Forest.
"[The Craggy Project] was developed really to improve fire resiliency on national forest system lands by reducing fuels and stand density in strategic areas and also within the wild land, urban interface, and the areas that are closest to our communities, private lands and structures and infrastructure," Isbell said.
He said during the 2020 wildfire season the Badger Fire came into the project area where the pile burning was already completed. He said the project proved to be successful at reducing the impact the fire could have had.
"It was on the North side of the town of Yreka and really had some potential to be catastrophic to the local community," Isbell said. "So these treatments have proven to help with some of our fire suppression efforts."
Isbell said around 500 acres of fire fuel have been burned this year and for the next three to five years crews will continue to treat 11,000 acres to prevent future wildfires.
He said there was a big influx of funding for this project from the following partners: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, CalFire’s Siskiyou Unit as well as the Sacramento Office, Siskiyou Resource Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Northern California Resource Center, Siskiyou County, Yreka City, and Yreka Area Firesafe Council.
"We've been fortunate enough to get over $5 million for this project, which really helps us increase the pace and scale that we actually treat these landscapes and this project under," Isbell said. "So a lot of these contracts and funding sources are only going to last for the next three years. I anticipate the majority of this project to be done within a relatively short time period. I'm thinking this project will be complete within the next three to five years."
Isbell said not only is this project helping reduce the risk of wildfire spread, but it is also providing local jobs to workers such as contractors in Southern Oregon and Northern California.