A lightning strike on 07-24-17 ignited a wildfire that eventually consumed 30,887 acres, a majority of which was in the Modoc National Forest northwest of Adin CA (Modoc County). Named the Cove Fire, this conflagration was finally contained on 08-16-17.
The Cove Fire crested Fox Mountain behind our ranch on 08-01-17. Leonard and I despaired as we watched the forest, a favorite haunt for observing flora and fauna, go up in flames.
On 08-24-17, once the fire was contained and crews departed, Leonard and I went into the burn area. Our intention was to begin observing a specific site over the next couple years to record the forest’s recovery. Our plan changed. Instead of a single confined location, we plan to photograph and chronicle changes along Modoc National Forest Road 40N11.
The 24th of August was about three weeks after the wildfire raged through the portion of forest we selected to monitor. The “ghosts” of burned trees towered over the denuded ground. Smouldering logs were common. The beginnings of serious erosion were evident, caused by rainstorms that passed through on August 6th and August 22nd. The landscape was as desolate as expected.
Yet, the forest already showed signs of renewed life. Leonard and I saw a lone mule deer doe and a California ground squirrel. Most surprising, since we did not expect to see much renewed plant life until spring, were green leaves sprouting from plants that were burned. California black oaks, tobacco brush and spreading dogbane all displayed new growth. What resilience!!
California black oaks (Quercus kelloggii) sprout following injury from cutting or logging, as does tobacco brush (Ceanothus velutinus). Tobacco brush is abundant in areas after fire or logging, resulting in stands that eventually transition into forests as the trees recover and grow. Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) rhizomes that are greater than ten inches in depth survive fires that top kill the plants. In Oregon spreading dogbane flowering was reported within two months of severe fires. Recovery is occurring much faster than we anticipated.
It will be interesting to watch the forest renew itself.
More information on the three sprouting plants can be found in my earlier posts:
California Black Oak (and Oregon White Oak) on 08-30-11