In August 2020, a the CZU Lightning Complex Fire burned through the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, destroying much of the infrastructure of California’s oldest state park and closing it indefinitely. On May 2, 2021, another fire popped up in the same burned area, growing to nearly 7 acres before being contained by firefighters. Oddly enough, the fires may be connected.
Do to the ongoing drought throughout Northern California, scientists recently reported record levels of dryness in the Santa Cruz mountains. With such a dryness, along with the ongoing embers of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire still alive in the redwood forest, it’s likely that the fire was started by the embers from nearly 10 months ago.
LATEST: Firefighters have made ground access to the #BasinFire. Thanks to @BoulderCreekFD, Ben Lomond Fire, and @santacruz_fire (providing a water tender). The fire is holding at 3/4 acres. Ground resources have been making their way in, as it is very difficult access. #CaWx pic.twitter.com/kZI5xWomjB— CAL FIRE CZU (@CALFIRECZU) May 2, 2021
“By now you may have heard of the 20-acre fire in Big Basin Redwoods State Park over the weekend and asked yourself: How can there be a fire in a place that just had a major fire late last year?” wrote the Save the Redwoods League on Twitter. “Indeed, the fire in Big Basin burned very severely, so much so that the park is still a very long way from reopening… But it didn’t burn severely in every corner. There were some pockets where it only burned at low or moderate levels. And these areas are still susceptible.”
“There’s also the real likelihood that this recent fire started from the embers of the same fire that hit the forest last year. Embers can continue deep in a tree’s trunk or even underground… Piles of unburnt dead needles from last year’s fire create lots of opportunities.”
The prospect of a wildfire reigniting after 10 months is rather terrifying, especially considering the burn areas that NorCal has seen over the past year. In fact, 2020 was the state’s largest wildfire season ever, fueled by our first “gigafire.”
A small portion of the Big Basin Redwoods is expected to open on Memorial Day, although most of the park will stay closed indefinitely. Much of the park is expected to stay closed for years until new park facilities and infrastructure can be built. There’s also plenty of work to be done to ensure visitor safety in the burned areas.
Until the park opens again, firefighters may continue to have fire issues in the Big Basin Redwoods.