Rachel Birkey, Shasta-Trinity National forest supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service, gave a presentation at the Oct. 5 Board of Supervisors meeting and fielded questions from the supervisors.
Birkey maintained that the Forest Service’s position on wildfires in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest has been full suppression.
“When a fire is detected our Dispatch Unit sends all available initial attack forces,” Birkey said.
She shared that this fire season gave rise to approximately 100 wildfires. Of those, Birkey said, 86 were extinguished before they grew to 15 acres, and eight more were dowsed before reaching 100 acres.
The remaining six — including The Monument fire, The McFarland fire, and The River Complex fires — occurred on extreme heat days, often with high winds and in steep terrains at times when many other fires had broken out across the state all requesting the same firefighting resources, she said.
Sup. Keith Groves said this year’s busy fire season should have been expected, and asked if there was any way to get more resources available for fire suppression in the future.
“Obviously resources are one of the big issues this year — or lack of resources,” Groves said. “We knew this year was coming. It was an extreme drought, it came after last year's record 4 million acres (burned), so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that we would have issues this year.
“Is there discussion at high levels how to increase the size of the resources for the following years?”
“It’s happening not just at the top, but also all the way through the upper levels of our organization,” Birkey said. “I do expect that there will be a push to bolster … us with substantially more resources in the realms where we were lacking this year."
Sup. Cox then asked about any perceived disparities between response efforts to fires on the Shasta side of the forest rather than the Trinity side.
“There is a perception to some that perhaps the Shasta side of the forest might get a bit more attention than the Trinity side, can you speak to that perception?” Cox asked.
“We were dispatching full suppression action against (The River Complex) fire and attempting to stop it at every stage,” Birkey said. “I’ve never actually felt like there was less attention to one side.”