The Lassen Volcanic National Park, the seldom heard but valued, lost more than a third of its total acres to Dixie Fire, the Morgan Fire and another fire that was sparked on purpose for defensive strategy.
The blaze has torched some 40, 928 of the park’s total 106, 452 acres.
Lightning, extreme dryness, and wind have come together in the past several days that triggered explosions of fire within Lassen. A firing operation was started by the crews – fire against fire — to save neighboring towns and buildings.
“When the opportunity presents itself to where you can burn material at a lower intensity and a lower severity, it benefits the efforts,” Kevin Sweeney, Lassen spokesperson, said. “Nothing’s guaranteed when you’re burning a fire in California in August. But you have a better chance of having that fire act in a way that would be less severe and less damaging.”
A fire was intentionally put on to protect adjacent towns like Mill Creek and Mineral. It has merged with the Dixie Fire and the Morgan Fire, which torched 635,728 acres and 1,000 acres, respectively.
“That’s a success story,” Sweeney says. “… That operation worked.”
The fire took almost its whole length after it entered the park a couple of weeks ago. It damaged the historic Mount Harkness lookout tower as well as a number of Juniper Lake cabins. The park’s pine forests and wildflower meadows were also devoured by the blaze.
The Lassen Volcanic National Park also posted on social media that the Warner Valley, the location of the Drakesbad Guest Ranch, was also affected by the fire. While other Warner Valley structures were impacted, the main lodge and the dining hall remained standing as of August 16.
Sweeney said that the park service resumed its firefighting operations as it targets to fully contain the fire. The U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire are helping out and the operation is being augmented by equipment like bulldozers, chain saws, and masticators.
But a red flag warning is up in the area as the high winds are expected to still blow over the next two days. Evacuations have affected the park staff as well as the individuals who have long been studying the ecosystems in the park. Sweeney said the situation is difficult for the residents there, SFGate reported.
“I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that the Park Service is run by human beings,” he said. “It takes its toll on biologists and researchers, and those of us that tell that story. To see these projects that you’ve been working on for entire careers impacted so quickly and so dramatically … we’re working through that.”