Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

After the Fire—Working to Restore the Land

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, California

The French Fire started August 14, 2004 in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and entered into the community of French Gulch, California. The fire burned over 13,000 acres; 400 acres of which were in the recreation area. It destroyed 26 homes and one historic building that had been built in 1914.

Even before the fire was declared controlled, the Burned Area Emergency Response team was called in to assess the burned area. Among the many recommendations, mitigation for non-native invasive plant species was a priority.

The fire started near the road in an area called Coggin's Flat, named after a sawmill that existed on the site before the park was established. The area consists of 7.5 acres of land running parallel to Trinity Mountain Road and Clear Creek. Prior to the fire, this area was infested with Himalaya blackberry, an aggressive non-native species that inhibits the growth of native species. The fire burned through so hot that it consumed the understory down to mineral soil. Eight days after the fire, blackberry was already sprouting from the roots, and by April 2006 the blackberry at Coggin's Flat was 12-18 inches high. Through money obligated by the BEAR Teams recommendations, Whiskeytown was able to hire staff to be part of the Exotic Plant Management Team. The team began treating the blackberry using herbicide and by mid-summer the blackberry was effectively treated. Many other invasive weeds, including yellow star thistle and common mullein, were also present and are still being treated at Coggin's Flat. Besides herbicide, the team also hand-pulled these weeds to minimize the use of herbicide.

There has been a positive response by the native vegetation in this area. With more sunlight and nutrients available and less competition, there is an amazing amount of native plants germinating from the existing seed bank. With the help of many volunteers, park staff planted 1192 plants and 33 pounds of flower and grass seed that include 17 native plant species.

Many other agencies and organizations assisted the Exotic Plant Crew on this project including students from Shasta College, Boy Scouts of America, Crystal Creek Boy's Camp, California Conservation Corps, Student Conservation Association, Firestorm, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), University of Nevada-Reno. In addition, there were many individuals outside of the agencies that contributed to the restoration effort.

Contact: Carol Jandrall, Fire Communications and Education Specialist
Phone: (530) 359-2304