NELDER GROVE – A half-mile hike into Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias yesterday revealed the presence of about 20 Sierra National Forest firefighters, hard at work. The Fresno 4 Crew is on detail at this location off Sky Ranch Road, just past the turnoff to Calvin Crest, working to restore the forest to its natural state. They are also available for initial attack should a fire break out nearby.
Hand-piling fallen branches for fuel reduction helps prepare the forest for the future, when controlled burns are expected to provide the right environment for new sequoia seedlings to sprout where cedar and pine are trying to take over.
The small cones of the giant sequoias are serotinous – meaning they need the heat of flames to open up and distribute the seeds.
Firefighter André Charton of the Forest Service explained that currently, cones are buried beneath about 8-12″ of duff – the litter that collects on the forest floor, made up of decomposing leaves, smaller branches, loose bark and stems.
This crew is on site to reduce that layer of duff in order to expose the cones to future prescribed burns, with the ultimate goal of regenerating the majestic grove of giant sequoias.
Volunteer camp host Brenda Negley said the Forest Service is in the process of solving problems that would otherwise be overwhelming, and which date back to the days when her own grandfather was the camp host at Nelder Grove.
“Elders,” in the form of ancestors, were definitely present at Nelder on this day. Besides Brenda Negley carrying on her maternal grandfather’s legacy, two of the Fresno 4 Crew, who are brothers, stated that their own grandfather had done work for the Forest Service in the area. Like many firefighters, their family legacy includes grandfather and father, and also, their mother.
The guys took a short break from their hard work to pose for a photograph with two of the Chinese girls who were hiking with us, as part of their 12-day visit to the foothills from China.
Look for that photo of our friends, “Polly” and “Queen,” each 15, to go viral in their homeland!
As always, we thank all the men and women of the Forest Service, and all the first responders who watch out for the rest of us as we hike, blissfully, in and around the Sierra National Forest.