Buck’s Meadow, Groveland, Jamestown, Sonora, Twain Heart, and Angel’s Camp. These are some of the communities on or near Highway 120 in the areas of the huge Rim Fire, burning in the Stanislaus National Forest. After we left Yosemite National Park we drove along 120 and were able to see first hand some of the devastation from this fire.
The first thing I noticed were swaths of scorched and yellowed branches on otherwise green trees.
Looking more closely, I could see burned tree trunks.
The undergrowth was burned away.
Later, talking to people in the nearby towns, we learned how bad the air quality was, with heavy smoke shrouding homes and business, and ash raining down on cars. While we were visiting, we only occasionally noticed the smell of smoke and the air quality was good.
Many businesses have signs posted to say thank you to the more than 5,000 personnel who were fighting the fire at it’s peak. The fire, started on August 17, is not yet fully contained as of October 5. Approximately 402 square miles have burned.
As we drove the twisting road, it was sad to see new vistas of burned areas. It is hard to fathom the size of this fire: an area larger than the city of Chicago.
Although during our visit to Yosemite where we read about the benefits of wildfires, that is not the case for the high-intensity Rim Fire.
Fire ecologists say it will take decades for forests to recover from the Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park, given the the extent of the high severity burn. ~ Lauren Sommer, KQED Science
This sign was outside the St. James Anglican Church in Sonora, also known as the Little Red Church.
At a Vista Point the parking area was full. The hills had been burned and were scorched nearly bare as far as we could see. We looked out on the empty hillsides with others, standing in silence.
Memorials to two firefighters were at this spot, CAL FIRE Firefighter I Eva Schicke was killed on September 12, 2004 at the age of 24 and David Erickson, a US Forest Service Crew Leader, who died on September 11, 1987, at the age of 34.
It is a blessing that no lives have been lost in the Rim Fire.
The city of San Rafael where we live, sent firefighters as did other stations in Marin. Men and women came from all around the country to assist with the fight to extinguish the fire.
The news isn’t completely without hope. Regeneration has begun in the area of the fire.
Next spring we’ll see a lot of wildflowers and plants that haven’t been seen around here for a long, long time. In 20 years, we’ll see something really nice. But it will take 200 years at least for it to grow back the way it was. ~ Sean Collins of the South Central Sierra Incident Command Team
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