|The Sportsmenís Report
Looking down on Scotts fire from Cow Mountain
I was on Cow Mountain last weekend when the Cal Department of Forest Fires (CDF) announced Friday the Scotts fire was 100 percent contained. We rode the Jeep to the top of Cow Mountain, where the control center was located during the conflagration. The view there took in Ukiah to the west, the coastal mountain range, south over the Mayacama Range, which is part of our local mountains to the east and downslope to Lakeport and Clear Lake. From that vantage point, 90 percent of the burned area was before us.
Fires are part of the normal cycle of things, but parts of this fire burned very hot, reducing the thick brush to grey ash. In many of the deep canyons, native oaks and pine trees were heavily singed or spared entirely. In the early days of the 10-day fire, Lakeport was threatened and the homes around pretty Blue Lake were on alert for quick evacuation should the raging fire turn their way.
The Friday before, when the fire first broke out, the Cow Mountain Hunt Club was filled with anxious hunters. By late afternoon, the smoke was thick and heavy. During the night, dozens of heavy firefighting convoys passed through the camp and up the dusty trails to form a perimeter on the uppermost ridge. Although the fire was not an immediate threat to club property, the Saturday morning hunt was called off by a firefighting supervisor. His concern was the threat to firefighter safety with hunters in the same area.
In the end, the raw numbers of firefighting bulldozers, helicopters, planes, trucks and personnel were staggering. Men on the ground included trained fighters, volunteers and convicts fighting side by side, more than 1,100 souls by one count. If you would like more specifics go to: www.inciweb.gov or click through on a Google search: Scotts Fire, Lake Co. Ca. where you will find pictures and summaries by several sources, including official updates by the forestry department.
Fires are something I run from, one of the things in life that bring the flight, not fight, instinct boiling to the surface for me. Like police work, it is best left to those who are best trained and acclimated to that kind of work.
There is a good side to forest fires. As a mushroom hunter, I line up the fires on a map as they happen and try to get to them in the spring. The delightful morel mushroom is stimulated by fire and is one of the first living things to emerge. The second benefit is the foliage that sprouts about the same time, the tender green shoots are a favorite browse for native deer. The first few years after a fire, the fawn population is healthy and has a higher survival rate than in most years. For the trees, a fire burns away the competition and provides a chemical change in the soil matrix. Most native species respond positively to the post-fire environment.
The exception is when a cleansing fire has been too many years coming. Then the fire has lots of fuel and burns much hotter. This can lead to long-term damage to even the biggest trees in the fire zone. The visible part of the Scotts Fire are east of the 101 just as you enter the Ukiah Valley. Take an exit and park where you can get a good view of the burn. The part you see is only about 10 percent of the total burn area. Impressive!
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.