Fire issues addressed at Town Hall meeting

By Tamara Steiner on November 18, 2013

Although it looks pretty black, the grasses are already beginning to sprout in the areas charred by the recent Morgan Fire. The fire, which started on Sept. 8, burned 3,111 acres, much of which had not seen fire in over 100 years. The blackened hillsides and downed trees have many residents concerned about runoff and mud slides during the rainy season. Representatives from CalFire, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Mt. Diablo State Park and Save Mount Diablo met with locals at a Town Hall meeting on Nov. 6 at the Clayton Library to answer questions.

“The fire was a fairly moderate burn and nature will repair itself if left alone,” said Rich Casale, conservation specialist with the NRCS. “The hardest thing for people to do is nothing.” he said. “But sometimes, nothing is best.”

However, the east-facing slope on North Peak is bare down to Perkins Canyon. And residents along hard-hit Morgan Territory Road are concerned about mudslides when the heavy rains hit this winter.

Crews have cut divots in the vulnerable areas to keep runoff from cascading straight down, Casale explained. He advises property owners to keep culverts and creek beds clear of debris and to use silt fences, loose straw and slashed sandbags in erosion areas. “Don’t spread black plastic over the ground and beware of ‘schlocks’ that want to sell you ‘wax sprayers’ and other ‘junk’ you don’t need and won’t work,” Casale warned.

“We are already seeing huge leaf drops,” he noted. “Don’t disturb them. They protect the soil and encourage regrowth.” Casale does not recommend reseeding, which only gives surface stability, not slope stability. The fire was relatively “cool burning” so there isn’t much “white ash” over the soil. Growth in the areas is already starting. Damage from bulldozer lines has been backfilled and spread with organic matter, said CalFire Battalion Chief Mike Marcucci. Grazing would not have helped prevent the Morgan Fire, said Seth Adams of Save Mount Diablo. Grazing only helps control grassland. The Morgan Fire burned dense woodlands. Controlled burns may be a good way to limit fuel on the mountain, especially the west side, said State Park spokesman, Dave Matthews. But staff and resources are limited, he said, and air quality is always an issue.

For information on erosion control, call the Natural Resources Conservation Service, (925) 672-4577. For information on fire safe landscaping, go to diablofiresafe.org.

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