Tallest known White Fir survives Caldor Fire

Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 5:47 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Caldor Fire was reported on August 14, 2021, and would not be fully contained until October 21.

It would threaten the Lake Tahoe Basin, small mountain towns would be evacuated. Winds and drought-stricken trees made it tough to fight.

A drive through the area two years later shows the devastation where hillsides and dirt roads are lined with dead darkened trees.

But for tree hunter Michael Taylor, this is just the spot for a major discovery. He sees forests as the perfect place for a treasure hunt.

“The forests are unknown,” says Taylor. “I arrived at the right time and the right place to explore a new frontier.”

Right place at the right time is a perfect description.

But it is more than this *place* in the Eldorado National Forest. It is a *time* of technology where Lidar, a system which uses laser imaging to detect range and distance which helps Taylor find the tallest known conifers in the world.

“Basically a way to explore from your armchair,” says Taylor. “But if you are patience and you know how to use the software you can basically get all the tall trees.”

He’s used the system and software to locate the tallest Redwoods.

But with all his discoveries, he must see the tree with his own eyes and measure it to confirm his revelation.

And today he takes us to one of his latest finds; the tallest known White Fir in the world.

“It is almost like I feel like I have won; finding tall trees is for me it means I succeeded,” says Taylor.

Across a creek is where it stands.

265.8 feet. Taylor suspects it is 350 years old. The creek provides it with a constant water source. But the White Fir has some unique attributes which may or may not explain its size.

“It is on a north slope so it is competing with the slope itself for sun,” says Taylor. “It has to get above the slope. It probably had a neighbor which is no longer there that forced the tree go up hill. For some reason this tree is growing up hill which is very unusual.”

Also unusual, is this tree survived the Caldor Fire.

From its very top the view shows just how close the fire came. To the north a fire scar, to the west across the creek more trees destroyed by flames.

Just as with many fires the wind changed in the Caldor Fire as it hit the hilltop...otherwise.

“I think this tree would have been toast,” says Taylor

But there are other signs of life besides this White Fir.

Maria Mircheva with the Sugar Pine Foundation says she noticed it on our hike.

“I noticed the ground and there is carpet of young seedlings,” says Mircheva. “So, I think this forest is going to recover. And rejuvenate, even on its own.”

There will be no tree planting for her group in this neck of the woods.

A small and very tall consolation prize left by the Caldor Fire.