Ready for Wildfire in the Sierras? Steep Terrain Hazardous Fuels Treatment Demo Shows Tools and Techniques for Mountain Communities

Release Date: May 30, 2018   Placervillle, CA

Contact(s): Jennifer Chapman, 530 957-9660, CAL FIRE - Heather Williams (916) 856-8869


The USDA Forest Service and CAL FIRE, in cooperation with other partners, are sponsoring a steep terrain hazardous fuels treatment demonstration (demo) near Ice House Resort in El Dorado County. The demo will take place on land owned by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), approximately 45 minutes east of Placerville. Public tours offered on June 8-9, 2018 will allow participants to view techniques and equipment for managing vegetation on steep terrain (>30% slope gradient) which is critical to community protection in the Sierra Nevada.

"Usually, prescribed fire is the preferred and most cost-effective technique to treat excessive fuels," said Rob Griffith, U.S. Forest Service Deputy Regional Director for Fire and Aviation. "However, in many cases, the existing fuel load has accumulated too much to safely treat with prescribed fire and a pre-treatment step is needed, especially near communities and other developed areas."   

The steeper the topography, the faster a fire spreads. As wildfires have become larger and more frequent, fire agencies and land managers have been seeking alternative fuels treatment methods for steep terrain. Wildfire is part of our natural landscape and communities need to know the best ways to act before a wildfire sparks in order to minimize the risks. This is why finding better solutions to remove vegetation from steep slopes is so important.

"These types of demonstrations show the public and land managers that there are new and improved tools available to help remove vegetation from these hillsides," said Stew McMorrow, CAL FIRE Deputy Chief of Forestry Assistance. "We need all residents, land managers, and public agencies to work together to help create fire-safe communities. This demonstration is another step towards that goal."

Treatment on steep slopes has been limited in the past due to equipment specifications and concerns about potential soil impacts, equipment effectiveness and operator safety. Recent innovation has expanded the tools for fuel treatment on steep terrain. Mechanical vegetation treatment systems have been improved to manipulate biomass onsite (mastication) in order to lessen the intensity of wildfire behavior. Improvements include development of equipment carriages and self-leveling cabs that facilitate safe operation on steep slopes (up to 60% slope gradient).

Public tours of the demonstration will be two hours in length, and involve walking a 1-mile loop to view 9 pieces of working equipment. Registration is required and space is still available on Friday afternoon, June 8, and Saturday morning, June 9. For more information and to register for the demo, visit the University of California website: http://ucanr.edu/steepdemo 

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 The U.S.D.A Forest Service is an equal opportunity employer. The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.