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November 14, 2012 (Cuyamaca)  -- Due to a change in weather, this week’s controlled burn planned for McCain Valley was cancelled. Instead, Cal-Fire will hold a prescribed burn on Wednesday, November 15 in the Middle Peak area off Highway 79 and Mild Ranch Road in the Cuyamaca area.  Smoke will be visible from the Julian and surrounding areas, Mike Mohler at Cal-Fire advises.

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Last night on my "way down

Last night on my "way down the hill," I stopped and asked a nice, chatty, CDF offical what they hoped to accomplish with the burn. Her answer was (to me, at least) interesting. "Reforestation," she said. The  Cuyamacas, she explained, were part of the last--i.e., southernmost--forest in the state of California. Thus, the park service's goal is to, as far as possible, restore the original coniferous forest, and this process begins with contolled burns designed to eliminate the overgrown ceanothus that makes it difficult for pine and cedar seedlings to take root.

I nervously asked her what would happen to all the Black and Live Oak regrowth.To have watched the mountains as closely as I've done over years, is to have witnessed the profound rebound of local oaks, some of which now stand 12-15ft. tall. "Would they be protected in from the flames? "No," she said, but quickly added, but "don't worry, their rootballs will send up new growth."


Seems to me these CDF planners are banking on, as much as anything, a hope. They've already tried to replant Middle Peak once; it didn't work. The seedlings were dead within a year. This official tried to reassure me that the new trees would be better, more resistant to bacteria/fungus etc.. I dont know. Sounds like a gamble. Everyone knew and was prepared to accept the fact the forest would never be exctly the same: there would be proportionatly more oaks and fewer conifers; but the oaks were there--were already ten years old. To burn them down again in the (again) hope that a new batch of evergreens is going to work sounds very dicey.