Former USFS Forest Supervisor blasts NPS for management of Reading Fire

Reading fire burn operation
Reading fire burn operation
Reading fire burn operation, August 14, 2012. Photo by Kim Lemke

Steve Fitch, a retired Forest Supervisor of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and “fire behavior expert” is criticizing the National Park Service for their management of the Reading fire, which has burned 25,242 acres. Approximately 16,000 of those acres are inside Lassen Volcanic National Park, 46 miles east of Redding, California. Apparently the NPS chose a limited fire suppression strategy during the early stages of the fire.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Redding Record Searchlight:

I can’t believe they went ahead with letting a fire burn for the ecosystem’s benefit in a season that, for the entire nation, is record dry. That fire is creating its own weather. It’s extreme temperatures there. … They probably nuked 10 percent or 15 percent (of the land).


Fitch said all signs should have pointed to immediately stopping the fire.

Fitch said prescribed burns, designed to clear out vegetation that climbs up into the trees, normally serve a good purpose in the wetter, cooler months. They prevent fires from using the overgrowth as a ladder to snake up into the tall trees that cover the forest.

But in the summer, high temperatures and low humidity give fires a high growth potential he said.

However, a host of other issues made the bad decision even worse, he said. The Forest Service’s aerial tanker fleet was at one-quarter strength this year.

“Everybody in fire management knew that,” he said. “That country up there, there’s no way to get into it. You’re relying on aerial firefighting resources.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Former USFS Forest Supervisor blasts NPS for management of Reading Fire”

  1. Yes. Letting ‘natural fire’ run loose in an unnaturally maintained forest leads to a nuked forest. The NPS are not alone in this practice. Region 6 has been systematically deforesting the Cascade Crest with this policy.
    B&B 2003 – 91,000 acres
    Dollar Lake 2011 – 6,300 acres
    Waterfall2 2012 – 2,800+ acres and growing
    These are scorched earth fires not beneficial mixed burns. Just like the first two fires, last week Waterfall2 smoldered away while being watched. The weather turned hot and dry (in August, what a surprise) now it is nuking its way across the slopes of Mt. Jefferson consuming forest and resources.


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