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Thread: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

  1. #1
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    As many of you know, the still-raging Dixie Fire, and newer Morgan Fire, recently entered and caused the closure of Lassen Volcanic NP in California.

    You may also know the fires have destroyed Lassen’s Mount Harkness lookout tower (built 1931, at 8,000 ft.), in addition to cabins at Juniper Lake, and much of the park's pine forests and wildflower meadows.

    What you may not know is of the approx. 100,000 acres of the NP, 40,000 acres have now been consumed by the fires – more than one-third of the Park.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    (These are people fighting fire, with fire, near Lassen's Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, three days ago.)

    In this summer of extreme drought, it strikes fear in my heart that such destruction is also possible, at any moment, in the woods of Oregon and in my bone-dry region of Wash. state – North Cascades NP, Olympic NP, Mount Rainier NP, Mount St. Helens Nat’l Monument. Fingers crossed until the autumn rains.

    -----
    I hope to see older LF images of Lassen, before the fires, in future threads, as a gesture of remembrance (and warning), plus images not-yet-taken of forest regeneration as a gesture of hope.

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    It's up to the perimeter road, and has knocked out some of the most popular camping infrastructure. But even below that, the colorful thermal springs of Bumpass Hell and so forth have long been geologically pre-burned anyway, and are mostly barren volcanic ash, so wouldn't likely have suffered much from the current fire. Nor will fire get far up the peak itself, with nothing to burn up there. But much of the surrounding former lushness might well have been impacted. Hard to say. But those volcanic soils do absorb water well, and are likely to sprout up quickly after the rainy season. Remember, the entire area underwent near total destruction back when the volcano erupted in 1915. Not as dramatic as the St Helens event. But the wildflowers will probably be up in remarkable abundance even this coming Spring, likewise meadow grasses.

    Slightly smaller in scale, but far more dramatic in sheer intensity was the Creek Fire above my home town last year, and nearly surrounding it. That's the one that produced a record thermal cloud due to the far steeper terrain in the second deepest canyon of the continent, just a little less deep than the Middle Fork of the Kings (sorry, folks in Idaho, the Snake River canyon doesn't come close). I camped in there briefly in May. From across the canyon it looks like about 20 nuke bombs went off. But up in there, just the next year, incredible wildflowers in the fresh ash, abundant new grass in the meadows, all kinds of wildlife, even in the streams. But all those dead beetle-killed pines, as far as the eye could see, were swept away as if in an instant, along with any homes on ridges above. The nature of the terrain itself greatly limits human occupation, except around mid-elevation resorts themselves; so there was little loss of life despite the severity of the fire. And the surrounding high altitude and glacially carved nature of the granitic inner canyons inherently spared much of the designated Wilderness. Above 7000 ft, firs and hemlocks dominate, rather than Ponderosa pine, or else high altitude pine species; so the worst fire impact was lower down. It tops out in that area slightly below 14,000.

    The current massive Dixie fire involves a much lower portion of the alleged "Sierra" (too far north for a geologist's classification of the Sierra as a mainly granitic fault-block range), where a lot more semi-suburban sprawl occurs back into the woods. Likewise with some of the present fires in the Tahoe area. We're getting some smoke from those even here on the coast; but I'm hoping for clear air in a day or two, as the wind shifts onshore again, for sake of my weekly photo/exercise day.
    Last edited by Drew Wiley; 19-Aug-2021 at 17:27.

  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    Oops. Gotta revise my comments. Just in the past couple of hours the incident map has been updated, and it now looks like the fast-moving fire has actually surrounded Lassen Peak and is burning to the north and west of it too. It's also well inside the highway, between the road and peak, where all the main Park and camping facilities are (or were - ?? !).

  4. #4
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    Active worldwide wildfires last week. I think I can make yours out on the map, but kind of hard to see. Maybe too small to show up compared to the others.

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  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    Too small??? It's apparently the biggest fire in the world at the moment - spreading smoke clear across the continent, probably even further. It will probably be over 800,000 acres by the end of the day. 5:00 PM update : already well over 800 - and if it manages to merge with another big fire just to the south of it, add about another 300,000.
    Last edited by Drew Wiley; 19-Aug-2021 at 17:12.

  6. #6
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    The colorful thermal springs of Bumpass Hell and so forth have long been geologically pre-burned anyway, and are mostly barren volcanic ash, so wouldn't likely have suffered much from the current fire.
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    Here’s a young child in Bumpass Hell just days ago.

    This is immediately before fires entered Lassen and closed the Park.

    (Or, “Honey, come along now, it’s time to go.”)

  7. #7
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    I sure hope none of that synthetic decking catches fire. It burns really hot and puts out toxic fumes, but will more likely just melt and char a little given sufficient distance from severe flames. If I were an intelligent color photographer, I'd be driving around inland right now taking advantage of the weird light. But I'd also be really stupid, health-wise. I don't think my lungs have even fully recovered from last year's inescapable smoke. This afternoon it's been some cat and mouse with that lovely Godfather movie amber light. At the moment I can even taste the smoke. But I'm right on the edge of cleaner air trying to force its way in from the ocean. I'll check the latest air quality forecast in upcoming local news broadcast - so far, ominous. But I'm sure glad we live close to the water rather than inland, where the air is distinctly unhealthy, and likely to remain so. Plus now there is a sizable fire just to the north of the Bay Area, near Clear Lake, filling the air with a lot of suburban vinyl, poly, and aluminum particulates - nasty fine yellowish ash - vaporized mobile home parks, strip malls, etc.

    Much of the area immediately peripheral to Lassen peak is indeed relatively barren or with just scattered smaller trees, so might not fare too badly even though its within the official footprint of the Dixie fire. But a few of my old work cronies are going to be awfully upset if the fire spreads towards the lovely Hat Creek area northeast of the Park, and their favorite fishing holes.

  8. #8

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    Re: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    Drew makes a good point about the range of severity within the fire perimeter. Once the fires are out, severity maps are usually made, but during a fire, there is not much time for that, and anyway, it can change during control efforts of big shifts in wind direction.

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: 1/3 of Lassen Volcanic NP now burnt to ashes (yes, one-third)

    They do plot ignition ashfall perimeters beyond the main burn zone per se, relative to predicted winds. Much of that big fire is producing five-mile active ash, in other words, active ignition due to hot falling ash fully five miles beyond the front. Once I personally witnessed hot ash effect over fifteen miles from the front. There goes the routine advice of a 20 foot clearance around your house. A twenty mile clearance makes more sense. Three years ago wind-driven hot ash jumped a mile right across the Carquinez Straight near here; and that was just a grass fire in seasonally dry marsh land - literally a duck hunting preserve, ordinarily swamped.

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