Caughlin Fire Aftermath: Attention Turns Toward Recovery, Prevention

The Caughlin Fire is barely out, but attention is already turning toward preventing further damage and future fires.

Eric Hasty of Washoe Parks and Open Lands Dept. views Hawken Fire recovery area

RENO, NV - Last week the hillside above Bartley Ranch Park was a mix of native grasses and brush.

Friday's fire left little of that landscape that's recognizable, even less that's still alive.

It will have to be restored and time is of the essence.
A burned over landscape is vulnerable to erosion and invading vegetation which can lead to future fires.

At the moment, nature is cooperating. An incoming storm is not expected to bring much moisture with it and beyond that the forecast calls for a couple of dry weeks.

That will give the experts time to survey sites like this and start work. Planning is already underway and they will have a blueprint to follow because they've faced this before.

Four years ago, sparks from a grinding machine used by a construction crew sparked the Hawken fire which burned 27-hundred acres above Caughlin Ranch just north of last Friday's fire.

Visit the area and you can still see the straw wattles and other anti-erosion measures put into place shortly afterward. Some of the surviving pine trees are scarred by fire, but there's little other evidence until you look closer.

The transformation really began with replanting.

That winter the burn area was reseeded with native grasses. Bitterbrush, desert peach, sagebrush and pines were planted At the bottom of the canyon along Alum Creek, fast growing willows were added.

If they'd done nothing these hillsides would have been quickly choked with cheat grass and even worse, another noxious exotic, medusa head, now Public Enemy Number One to those who worry about Nevada's wildlands.
You will find those flash fuels here, but you'll also see more fire resistant native bunch grasses.

In all this landscape is now healthier than it was before the fire and it's also safer.

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