Nearly half of Lassen Volcanic National Park burns at Dixie Fire



The massive Dixie Fire burned nearly half of Lassen Volcanic National Park in its extraordinary month-long rampage, federal officials said on Monday, leaving historic shacks and an iconic watchtower in ruins.

The park, an area of ​​ancient volcanoes and bubbling hot springs in remote northern California, was hit by the fire on August 5. The flames have since moved from the southern edge of the park east of Redding to its interior, pushing up in places as popular as Juniper Lake, Warner Valley, and Summit Lake.

The fire did not burn the gateway town of Mineral, where the park is based, nor did it affect the mud pots, fumaroles and steam vents at the Bumpass Hell geothermal hotbed. The park visitor centers were also still standing.

“A lot of people here are crossing their fingers,” said Ana Beatriz Cholo, spokesperson for the National Park Service. “It’s still a very active fire.”

The park remained closed to the public, as did the surrounding national forest lands.

Typically, around half a million people visit Lassen Volcanic National Park each year. Although popular with tourists, hikers, and campers, the park is much less trodden than its southern counterparts, such as Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon.

The latest losses confirmed by the National Park Service involved seven cabins and at least part of a campground on the shores of Lake Juniper, a high mountain lake surrounded by the thick forests of Lassen.

All but one of the razed cabins were privately owned, the plots dating from before the park was created. The only federally owned cabin was used to accommodate park employees working in the area. A private cabin on the lake survived the fire.

The blaze also wiped out the Mount Harkness Fire Lookout, a two-story wood and stone structure that, at 8,046 feet, has helped locate wildfires in the Lassen Wilderness since it was built in 1930.

Finally, a handful of outbuildings were reportedly destroyed at the Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Warner Valley, although the main structures on the ranch were reportedly unscathed.

In total, 47,945 acres of the park’s 106,452 acres have burned down, officials said. The area includes flashbacks that were purposely ignited by firefighters to burn trees and brush and impede the progress of the fire.

While burning is often considered good for wildlands, helping to remove excess vegetation and rejuvenate plants and soils, preliminary studies show that several places in the park have burned too hot to see any benefit. .

“There are areas that are more moderate burns, and some areas are more severe,” Cholo said. “It’s kind of a mixed bag.”

Park officials said the firefighting efforts have started to bear fruit, and there is optimism that the northern half of Lassen will be spared. If so, this section of the park could reopen in a few months.

The Dixie Fire, which charred 725,822 acres in five counties, is the second largest wildfire in California history. It was 40% content on Monday.

Kurtis Alexander is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Twitter: @kurtisalexander



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