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Controlled burn at Jack London State Historic Park

Operation deemed a success
Controlled burn at Jack London State Historic Park
The burn was designed to reduce hazardous fuel loads while improving wildlife habitat and enhancing biodiversityPhoto by Pete Solvik

By Melissa Dowling

CAL FIRE, Sonoma Valley, Schell-Vista, and Kenwood Fire Departments; the Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative; and Jack London Park Partners conducted a successful prescribed burn on a 15-acre site within Jack London State Historic Park on Oct. 20.

The burn, designed to reduce hazardous fuel loads while improving wildlife habitat and enhancing biodiversity, was conducted as part of the park’s grassland and hardwood forest vegetation management program. The park is reintroducing fire as a component of maintaining healthy ecosystems and will work with CAL FIRE to conduct prescribed burns on a rotational basis. The program, led by California State Parks and CAL FIRE, also reduces the accumulation of fuels that increase the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

According to CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Jason Clay, the weather conditions were “perfect” for crews to conduct the burn. The fire, he reported, “stayed inside all control lines. The goals and objectives for the prescribed fire were completed, and we were able to reintroduce ‘good’ fire to the Jack London State Historic Park landscape with no known fire history.” Crews patrolled the fire area for several days after the burn to ensure its containment.

“The prescribed burn with CAL FIRE went very smoothly,” said Matt Leffert, executive director of Jack London Park Partners. “Low winds and the dry, warm weather created ideal conditions for the consumption of the understory fuels in the designated burn area, maximizing fuel reduction benefits from the burn.”

Jack London Park Partners and other agencies sent notices in advance of the burn to the local community. Notice was short, officials explained, because conditions had to be just right for the burn to take place. And though smoke plumes were visible and concerning to community members who did not see the prescribed fire notices, the smell of smoke was low because weather conditions allowed the plume to rise and not settle into neighborhoods surrounding the park, according to Cyndy Shafer, natural resource program manager for California State Parks’ Bay Area District.