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This Spring The Rough Fire Burn Area Could Take On A New Life

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US Forest Service
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A hotshot crewmember works on the Rough Fire that evenutally grew to over 150,000 acres.

The lighting sparked Rough Fire burned over 150,000 acres in the Central Sierra Nevada last year. Today most of that area is closed and as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports forest agencies are antsy about reopening.

It’s too early for officials to know when the public will be able to access the area deep in the Sequoia National Forest that burned in the Rough Fire east of Fresno over six months ago. 

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Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio
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Valley Public Radio
The Rough Fire burn area.

Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott says at the moment it’s just too snowy to know what conditions will be like.

"The actual road surface itself may have been damaged and we may have to do some repairs to the road surface itself," says Elliott. "Make sure no more rock is coming down the hills. Then we can indeed open the roads.”

Elliot’s colleague Teresa Benson with the Hume Lake Ranger District says when the area does reopen the public will be shocked at the damage from the fire. Over half the district’s acreage burned in the blaze.

"You're going to be really surprised when you see areas that you're used to being a dense forest a dense forest are now gonna be really open with a lot of dead trees." - Teresa Benson

"You’re going to be really surprised when you see areas that you’re used to being a dense forest are now gonna be really open with a lot of dead trees," says Benson. "You can kind of see further now.”

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Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio.
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Valley Public Radio.
Matt Vreeland loves the Sierra Nevada. He hopes the areas he camps at will be open this summer.

Benson says the forest is going to take on a new life, with new wildflowers and maybe even oak trees at higher elevations. Visalia resident Matt Vreeland can’t wait for the area of the forest to reopen. He hunts, camps and collects wood there every year.

“It’s actually impacted us quite a bit," Vreeland says. "There’s some trails, it seems like things get closed real easy and opened not so much so we’re concerned will it still be there.”

But Vreeland will have to wait to visit. When all that snow melts crews will clear major roads of debris, even then the Forest Service isn’t sure that all areas for visitors within the burn area will be safe for outdoor activities.

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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