Residents frustrated; feel Gap Fire was preventable

Update (09/07 4:40 p.m.) — Jeff Marszal, the Happy Camp-Oak Knoll District Ranger, says that right now they are working on the “Westside Recovery Project” which is taking place in the footprint of the Happy Camp complex, which burned hundreds of thousands of acres back in 2014.

They are taking 100 log trucks a day filled with fuel. But he also wants people to know that they are living under a 4 year drought, and burning conditions are extreme. Marszal says they are seeing fire behavior that they’ve never seen before, so the ability to do prescribed burning and pilot burning is somewhat limited by the fact that they don’t have large burn windows.

Horse Creek, Calif. —  Much of the Horse Creek Community is turned to ash after the Gap Fire took off late last month, but residents believe the damage could have been avoided.

“There are fire lines that used to be maintained back in the 70’s and 80’s, but have not been maintained for many years,” resident Nephi Hartshorn said.

Hartshorn and his neighbors said they’ve been concerned about the brush building up on US Forest Service land near their homes and have been asking them to do something about it for nearly two decades.

“What we need to do is we just need to get this forest cleaned up, and it’s not being done that’s the bottom line,” neighbor Rudy Murieen said.

Murieen said people in the area have had meetings with local officials including the sheriff, district attorney, and the Forest Service to talk about fuel reductions. He said plans to reduce fuels have been approved, but they’re never carried out.

“The answers I got a lot of times was they didn’t have the money to implement it into the forest,” he said.

But Hartshorn said that price seems small compared to the value of land and homes.

“It makes me sad,”  he said. “There was a great chance that this fire could have been slowed down or even stopped so that’s frustrating.”

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