An initial report suggests that the Rim fire slowed in areas where woody fuel had been reduced in recent years through selective logging and intentional burning.
The report examines a few of the projects in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park where some of the trees and brush were removed to protect timber stands, homes and other property.
They total 4,041 out of the 257,135 acres within the fire’s perimeter as of Friday, but officials said the findings could be useful in future management of Sierra Nevada forests.
The report, a joint effort of the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, involved these projects:
• Rim Truck Fuel Break: A 15-mile-long fuel break, totaling 420 acres, was created north of Groveland, Pine Mountain Lake and Big Oak Flat, where several thousand people live. It is a “shaded fuel break,” with some trees left standing but much of the dense fuel removed.
“Firefighters were able to establish a dozer line within the existing fuel break and were successful in holding the fire along the fuel break, effectively keeping it out of all communities it was designed to protect,” according to the report. A dozer line is a fire line constructed with the front blade of a bulldozer.
State and local fire agencies helped with the fuel break.
• Bear Mountain: 1,813 acres around Mather near the forest-park boundary were thinned by loggers, then intentionally burned in some areas as a follow-up treatment.
The report said the work had varying effects on the Rim fire’s spread, depending on slope, proximity of untreated land and other factors.
“Initial impressions are that, in general, the treated units saw reduced fire intensity when compared to the surrounding untreated vegetation.”
• Peach Growers: This 742-acre part of the national forest, just north of Bear Mountain, was logged to reduce tree density, and woody debris on the ground was burned. The goal was to protect a campground and several leased cabins.
The report said the work protected the recreational sites from the Rim fire, reducing its intensity as it moved toward adjacent land, providing firefighters “a safe place to work and a relatively good chance of having a successful operation.”
A side note: This place is called Peach Growers because, around 1920, a farmer association in the San Joaquin Valley cut down some of the old-growth timber to make fruit boxes.
• Hodgdon Meadow: A 1,066-acre area along Highway 120 just inside Yosemite was thinned of vegetation along the road and near buildings and was subject to intentional burning. The site has a campground for visitors, along with offices and homes for employees.
“The combination of these prescribed fire and mechanical thinning efforts provided fire crews the opportunity to be proactive in their response for protection of Hodgdon Meadow during the 2013 Rim fire instead of reactive,” the report said.
The Park Service cuts down trees that were hazards to people or structures, but it says it does not use widespread logging for fuel reduction.
The projects are among about 36,000 acres of fuel reduction that had been accomplished within the Rim perimeter before the fire broke out Aug.17. The report said a detailed study will be done over several months on how effective all of the work was.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209)578-2385.