Siskiyou, South County, Yreka

We’ve had a busy weekend Neighbors


Rachel Smith Forest Supervisor Klamath National Forest


We’ve had a busy weekend – on Thursday, we picked up the Eliza fire near the McKinney fire perimeter and yesterday evening we mobilized along with CalFire to tackle the fast-growing spot from the Mountain fire near Gazelle. Fires elsewhere around the state have been growing rapidly, straining the ability of firefighters to respond. Our major focus is on quickly stopping the existing fires, but we also have firefighters positioned across the forest to respond to emerging fires.

We are at a crossroads today. Climate change is driving longer and hotter summers, droughts that stretch over decades impacting entire states, and more unpredictable weather. Rare scorching temperature events considered ‘dangerous heat’ are expected to happen three times more regularly in the future. We are witnessing, and experiencing the effects of this every year, in the number of our Seniors who die of heat related events, in once-reliable agricultural areas rendered arid and barren, and a fire siege stealing lives, destroying homes and damaging our incredible National Forests. And while wildfires can cause severe harm to forests and communities, we also recognize recent fire footprints have been the only thing slowing or stopping later wind-driven fires, and areas that burn at low to moderate severity protect forests moving into an uncertain fire future.

The catastrophic fires we are experiencing don’t have a single cause. Spurred by a century of well-intentioned practices aimed at reducing the risk of damaging fires through full suppression tactics, federal land managers only began to experiment with returning fire to the landscape in the 1950s, mimicking the practices of Native American communities and, later, Southern ranchers, (both groups who refused to abandon their practice of prescribed and cultural burning despite federal law enforcement fining and occasionally incarcerating them…) Since then, we have worked year after year to increase the number of acres which we conduct fuels treatments on. Where feasible, we do that with prescribed burning – with the goal of reducing the risk to people and communities at risk, but also in creating fire effects on the landscape which support and protect our precious healthy forests. Escapes from prescribed fires, while proportionally few, have made it very difficult for fire managers to implement. State and federal land management agencies must work together with communities to take these calculated risks together.

Today, we are treating more acres than we have ever before with a tremendous amount of help from federal, state, local, timber industry and community partners. This fall, the Klamath begins scaling up our permanent fuels organization, with support from our Regional Office and the National Office. What that will look like will be more Siskiyou County residents (both FS employees and partners) developing targeted fuels treatments, prioritizing areas close to communities. Two years ago I committed to allowing our tribal partners to conduct prescribed burns on national forest lands. This year I’ll be working with District fire staff to ensure this happens, and would expand that to offer other motivated partners the ability to burn beside us as they have for years on private lands, as well as independently on public lands. This winter, I hope to offer a prescribed burn workshop to help those interested through the basics of developing a burn plan.

There is so much to be done to address wildfires here as I’ve worked fires the last two summers I’ve been amazed by the patience, generosity and engagement Siskiyou County demonstrated during fires. Last summer, an Etna Grandmother heard that people on the River fire were running short of socks – within days, every firefighter who would take a pair had a fresh pair of socks. Two summers ago it was quilts, made by community members in Montague and given to firefighters getting chilly at night.

When the smoke is out of the sky this fall, the urgency of the need for your engagement and support for our collective work is just as great. We need your involvement in it – your voice in refining our priorities, calling us out when we miss something and your involvement in implementing the work on the ground. If you are able, please consider joining the Siskiyou Prescribed Burn Association, or engage with Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges, occurring this Fall and winter along the Klamath River. These are great opportunities to get hands on experience putting good fire on the ground to protect communities and improve resources. My goal is to use fuel treatments to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire and increase our staffing to the degree we can responsibly manage natural ignitions on the landscape in the future in a way that does not threaten vulnerable people, communities, and the incredible diversity of the Klamath National Forest.

Respectfully, Rachel

Rachel Smith Forest Supervisor Klamath National Forest

Rachel Smith Forest Supervisor

Forest Service

Klamath National Forest and Butte Valley National Grassland

[email protected]

1711 S. Main St. Yreka CA 96097

Caring for the land and serving people

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