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Lassen Volcanic National Park Still Open Despite Forest Fire


While a forest fire continues to burn in Lassen Volcanic National Park, many areas of the park remain open to the public. NPS photo.

Though a forest fire covering nearly 30,000 acres is burning in parts of Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, many areas of the park remain open to the public.

"The smoke conditions of the park change on a daily basis, with several areas experiencing clear skies and cooler temperatures," said Superintendent Darlene M. Koontz in a press release. "I encourage visitors to call our visitor center to check on smoke conditions prior to visiting the park."

The "Reading" fire was sparked by lightning on July 23. It involves both National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service lands, and covered a combined 27,849 acres, officials reported Sunday afternoon. Nearly 750 personnel are battling the fire, which so far has cost more than $12.2 million to fight, according to the government's Incident Command System.

Officials say visitors wanting to access Lassen Volcanic Park from the north, "can drive the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway from the north entrance to Manzanita Lake. Visitors wanting to access the park from the south entrance, the road is open to Summit Lake. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead for current information."

"... From the Southwest entrance, visitors can access the Bumpass Hell trail, Kings Creek Falls trail, Mill Creek Falls, and Brokeoff Mountain trail among others. Warner Valley offers visitors an opportunity to hike several trails, including the trails to Devils Kitchen and Boiling Springs Lake, two of the park's hydrothermal areas. The Lassen Peak trail will be open to the summit Friday August 31 through Monday September 3. ... The trails around Manzanita Lake, Lily Pond, Crags Lake and Manzanita Creek are open in the northwest part of the park."

Camping is available at Manzanita Lake, Warner Valley, Juniper Lake and the Southwest (walk-in) campground. Visitor services include the Loomis Museum, Manzanita Lake Camper Store, Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, the Lassen Café & Gifts (located at the visitor center) and Drakesbad Historic Guest Ranch in Warner Valley.

Ranger-led programs offer visitors a wide variety of topics on the natural and cultural history of the park seven days a week through Labor Day weekend. There are programs for visitors of all ages.

Check the park's website for updates on the fire and facilities and trails.


Darlene Koonz "apology" for the blaze at Lassen, is unexceptable. This has done nothing to improve the quality of life, in the forest, or anywhere around it. All to typical these days, California choking smoke summers. This used to be a place to take friends, and family. We won't be coming back to see what a great job she has done with the place. This is a tap, right into the vain of the American tax payer, let the forest burn to the ground, to support Government jobs. The fact that she couldn't attest to the "specific details", used in the decisions that were made, and now over 30,000 thousand acres,have burned, considering the situation in the Northwest, leads me to believe that she and her Fire management team, all should be replaced. "Sorry", just doesn't cut it.

Your rage is pathetic. Fire is healthy, and you're thinking about your stupid vacation. What a joke. The quality of your life can't be improved until you realize how unimportant you actually are.

The above comment that fire is "healthy" needs qualification: water is "healthy" too until

there is too much all at once, and one drowns ! Now, in prescription fire management,

clearly, this is an endeavor where a little knowledge of the subject matter may be vary dangerous !
The decision to Designate a Lightning ignition on July 23rd as a Prescribed Natural Fire was CLEARLY FLAWED. This plan had not been thoroughly scoped-out given the reality of critical fire weather regional forecasts, during the prior ten days with very low fuelmoisture forecasts. There is only a narrow window to contain a fire and initiate suppression action. Prescriptions are purposely written by wise, intuitive managers to be biased toward the cooler, moister side of the fire intensity equation, not the the hotter, drier end, to be more manageable, controlled at all times.

Obviously, any suppression decision requires available crews not readily available because of regional neighborhood fires.

Allowing this ignition to burn in an uncontrolled manner given the reality of fire weather forecastswas a major error in the fire boss' thinking. Another troubling issue of this tragic incident is that TheNPS has compiled a record of failure monitoring early ignitions and predicting outcomes: to mention a few consider the Yellowstone 1988 fires; and The Cerro Grande incident, Los Alamos, N. Mexico, costing an estimated $1,000,000,000 in losses including many private properties in nearby communities. This very flawed prescribed fire plan was implemented in 2000 despite the southwest had just experienced the driest winter of record. What were they thinking ? Clearly, they were NOT THINKING fuel moisture and the expected probability of extreme fire weather.Attempting to justify this fire based on ecological effects is also foolish given the significant losses in fragmented old-growth forests, wildlife, and potential losses to private properties in neighborhood communities. Public land managers need to be in touch with neighboring communities on how a national park benefits them, not burns their possessions.

If any single individual had caused this fire, they would likely be accused of arson, but the responsible superintendent may be transferred to a safer position elsewhere with a pay promotion as a "reward for failure";thus, this is why the NPS Fire culture has yet to significantly change. Now, warming climate forecasting may create intense fire incidents even more serious with unimaginable losses to both natural resource values, historic structures and adjacent private properties. Remember, a fire designated as a Prescribed Fire must be under control at all times: one cannot declare an ignition as Prescribed ignoring extreme fire weather forecasts given for the region, and then decide later to contain, since that narrow window of opportunity now has been lost. Prescribed Fire Plans need to be scoped out thoroughly in advance and preferably implemented in the late autumn when days are shortening, nights cooler and the probability of significantprecipitation much greater. Fire restoration management must be phased in gradually. As in this incident, a summer or July fire means a greater risk of escape.

Sadly, the NPS Fire Culture will resist change despite the last 25 year record of failure beginning with Yellowstone 1988 since it remains intolerant of constructive criticism and prefers the option

of "shooting the messenger of bad news" rather than admitting to failure.

"Tom Ribe's book titled, Inferno by Committee, is a clear, scrupulous and thorough account of the LosAlamos/Bandelierfire of 2000 is a white-knuckle narrative, yet meticulously accurate."

-Roger G. Kennedy, Former Director, U.S. National Park Service; Director Emeritus, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution and author of Wildfire and Americans:
Inferno by Committee tells the story of America's worst prescribed fire disaster, the Cerro Grande Fire of 2000 which burned 250 homes in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The fire started with a National Park Service prescribed fire that went out of control and ended up burning 42,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest. A thorough review of the investigations of the fire and the policy changes that resulted from this seminal event in American fire history are also an integral part of this examination. Prescribing fire on the landscape involves risk. Sometimes, as with the Cerro Grande Fire, the risk taken results in disaster. For land managers, there really is no option but to prescribe fire and take risk-to restore fire to a landscape where fire is native and necessary for the survival of biological systems. Cerro Grande showed us both the consequences of taking a risk with fire and more dramatically, the consequences of avoiding that risk.

NPR has a well narrated five-part Series entitled

How the Smoky Bear Effect has Led to Raging Wildfires: (Aired today 23 August 2012)


What remains amazing in this story of allowing the Lassen lightning fire of July 23rd to burn

(given prior red flag fire weather forecasts) is the realization that Supt. Koontz had arrived

at Bandelier N.M. a few years after their dreadful $ One Billion Dollar Bandelier (2000 Year),

Fire: ignited by so-called prescribed

fire NPS "experts" who weren't monitoring fuel moistures following the worst southwestern

drought of record for Los Alamos, New Mex. Clearly, she did not learn from that error in

thinking "Prescribed Fire" so, Is there any Hope now that Wilderness Fire has been given

a terrible name ?

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