TH-area burns to prevent wildfires

Union Democrat staff /

Pile burning conducted Friday around Twain Harte Lake was part of an ongoing project to clean up a potential fire hazard in the area.

The Twain Harte Lake Association in 2008 determined that decades of neglect had turned 34 acres just below the lake into a potential disaster waiting to happen.

Glenn Gottschall, a registered forester and president of the Highway 108 Fire Safe Council, said that a fire starting downhill from Twain Harte could rapidly encroach upon the town and lake area due to the amount of hazardous fuels that has accumulated.

After finding little support from state or federal grant programs, the association decided to take the project on themselves and raised about $65,000 to do the initial work.

The early stages involved using hand crews and a machine called a "masticator" to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous forest fuels.

A $20,000 grant from Cal Fire paid for the burning portion that began Friday.

"This is one of those lines of defense we work on at the Fire Safe Council and encourage these communities to find ways of doing it," said Gottschall, who planned the project and will help monitor it.

About 6 acres of fuels removed throughout the course of the early stages will be burned in slash piles, Gottschall said.

The next step, scheduled for later this winter, will be to replant the area with a mixture of conifers and hardwoods. Gottschall said the area was previously loaded with brush and oak, remnants of improper logging in the area decades ago.

"This will be a more typical forested condition in that area than what it ended up becoming," Gottschall said, adding that the mixture of conifers and hardwoods will also be beneficial as wildlife habitat.

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