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Prescribed Burning Saved This Beloved Tulare County Park From Fire Devastation

Madi Bolanos
Karine Hunt and Assemblemember Jim Patterson discuss the prescribed fires at Balch Park.

Multiple fires continue to ravage forests in the Sequoia. However, one area in the Sequoia National Forest escaped major destruction because of prescribed fires done over a year ago.

Balch Park is a Tulare County park known for its grove of Giant Sequoias. Karine Hunt, a forestry assistant 2 with Cal Fire, said a collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service saved the area from being devastated by the SFQ Complex Fire. 

“A lot of the char you see [is] on the old burnt Giant Sequoias and you notice there’s not much of  an understory, not much debris underneath,” Hunt said pointing to one of the Sequoia trees in the grove. “A lot of that is gone thanks to that prescribed fire.”

A prescribed fire that burned for months. And as a result, she said anything that burned near Balch Park due to the current fire was pretty minimal. 

Hunt gave a tour of the demonstration area to Assemblymember Jim Patterson on Friday. He said there needs to be more prescribed fires.

“The more we do this, the less we are going to lose and the safer our firefighters are going to be,” Patterson said. “That's the lesson that I’ve learned here.” 

Tulare County Supervisor Dennis Townsend was also in attendance. He said the success from the prescribed fire is a great example for other areas that desperately need fire prevention. 

“And it’ll help us as we go to the state and the federal government to ask for more resources and better forest management,” Townsend said. “We’re going to be using this as a model.” 

Patterson echoed Townsend’s statement, adding that he plans to go back to Sacramento and fight for more funding for wildfire prevention as well. 

Hunt said she is looking forward to future collaborations with the U.S. Forest Service to protect places like Balch Park. 

“A lot of tree species need fire but what they’re not used to is lack of fire for so long and a build up of fuels,” Hunt said. “So in these areas where we’ve been able to do the treatments, get in, do prescribed fire, field treatment, we don't see that crown fire.”   

A crown fire is when the top layer on a tree burns, she added. Preventing that type of fire will allow places like Balch Park to survive for many more years. 

Madi Bolanos covered immigration and underserved communities for KVPR from 2020-2022. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border.
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