July 06, 2006

Mason Gulch Fire, one year later

I was in my CSU-Pueblo office when M. called, a little bit on edge. She had seen a procession of Forest Service, sheriff's department, and TV news vehicles heading up the road past our house toward the national forest. What could have happened? A spectacular homicide in Babcock Hole?

"I'm going to walk up there and find out," she said. "I'll call you."

It turned out to be a "media event" to mark the first anniversary of last year's fire.

Mason Gulch was an intense fire because thick layers of gamble oak and fallen trees fueled the blaze, raising up 200-foot walls of flames, said [Mike] Smith [of the San Carlos Ranger District]. About 70 percent of the acres that burned in the Mason Gulch Fire were thoroughly destroyed, not leaving a single living tree behind. That is an usually high level of destruction for a wildfire, Smith said.

"We'll be taking pine cones from this area to plant our own seedlings," he explained. "That will take a couple of years before we can plant them."


Smith said Forest Service crews are also on the lookout for non-native weeds and plants, such as Canadian thistle and leafy spurge. Crews using pack mules in the hard terrain spray the weeds to keep them from spreading into the burned land.

Ah, a landscape of Gambel oak and cheatgrass. We really need to find a control for cheatgrass. I see it oozing in more and more. How did something like that evolve when its nutritional value for animals is so slow, except for a very short time in the spring?

UPDATE, JULY 7: Neither the Pueblo Chieftain nor the Canon City Daily Record employ reporters who can spell "Gambel." The Daily Record even referred to "gamble oak grass."

The Forest Service needs to provide better handouts for the news media: "This is a tree [photo]." "This is grass [photo]."

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