Rebuilding paradise: California town devastated by fire looks to future

Guardian, the (UK)

By Dani Anguiano


More than 9,800 homes have been destroyed by the fire, largely in Paradise, a town of 27,000. Also gone are 366 commercial buildings, and a third of the town’s schools.


“We have an opportunity to build the forests in the model of pre-European [settlement] conditions,” [the former fire chief and town evacuation operations coordinator, Jim Broshears,] said. “That is going to be a more resilient forest.”

Currently, the western sierras are densely wooded, and that isn’t necessarily the best model for the forests to get through fires, said Thomas Scott, an expert on wildfire at the University of California, Berkeley. That’s because these are second-growth forests, woodland that has regrown after harvest, which carry fire further and faster than the trees there before.

The idea of a pre-Columbian forest generally means not suppressing early summer fires, and removing some younger trees to create a more widely spaced forest. Forest management in this sense is not about harvesting trees, it’s about thinning the forest to protect the community.

“You get back a more pre-Columbian forest then that means it’s less likely to trap all those people in the town,” Scott said. Even with that approach there will still be fires, they would just be less likely to start at the crest of the sierras and stop at the Central Valley, he said.


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