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Resources Questioned At Gold Fire In O'Neals

To the Editor:

This was a great news article. The pictures and narrative captured the rangeland resources burned and suppression resources used to control and mop up the fire.

But what was the cost-benefit to the taxpayers of California? The rangeland annual grazing value for the area is near $15.00 per acre. Cal Fire reports about 274 acres burned. The grazing value lost for the year would be 274 acres times $15/acre or $4,110.

The fire burned up slope in annual grass covered with an open canopy of scattered Blue Oak and Grey Pine with a light understory of shrubs. This is typical vegetation found on south facing slopes in the O’Neals area, not a fuel type highly resistant to suppression.

I believe the Cal Fire suppression resources dispatched vastly exceeded what was necessary to suppress the fire. The three homes protected by Cal Fire were across County Road 210, down slope and quite possibly down wind of the fire. As long as the owners had completed their annual hazard reduction, the structures were at low risk.

It is always hard to predict how large a fire will get and what resources are at risk. In this situation, the fire rapidly spread up a south facing slope in dry grass.

Once the fire reached the top of Hildreth mountain, the rate of spread would be substantially reduced by grass with higher fuel moisture on north facing slopes this time of year.

Fire burning down slope is in a completely different burning environment than fire burning up slope as viewed from Road 210. Once the fire reached the top of the mountain, it could have been quickly contained by a smaller investment in suppression resources.

The big question. What was the suppression cost of the Gold Fire?

Neil McDougald

Rancher – O’Neals, California

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