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In The Sierra, Officials Want To Clean Up Burn Areas With Fire

The remains of a structure destroyed by the Courtney Fire.

Fires have burned through so much of the Sierra Nevada over the last four years that the U.S. Forest Service now has to figure out what to do with all the leftover debris. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports on one plan underway in Madera County.

The Courtney Fire burned 320 acres and destroyed 30 homes near the mountain community of Bass Lake last year. Now the U.S. Forest Service is ready to replant 80 of those acres. But first officials like Mike Nolan with the Sierra National Forest have to figure out what to do with all the charred logs that can’t be made into lumber.

NOLEN: “What we’re thinking of doing is cut down the trees that are dead, pile them up with tractors, burn the piles so it will be ready for reforestation next March.”

This process of cleaning up fire zones with fire might sound ironic, but Nolen says it’s a regular practice. Although watching the trees burn two times is tough for guy who plants them for a living.

NOLEN: “It’s kind of heartbreaking you know to put all that effort into growing those trees. People don’t even recognize part of that as being a plantation. It was a nice little forest and now it’s gone.”

Before crews can begin clearing and planting the Courtney Fire area public input is needed. Anyone with an idea for the cleanup is encouraged to contact the Sierra National Forest directly by October 19. To give input call (559) 877-2218.

Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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