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BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 547

Fuel break helps contain Robbers Fire

A fuel break near Foresthill in the community of Iowa Hill built to help contain potential wildfires did just that during the Robbers Fire this summer.

“The Indian Creek fuel break, which included the Kings Hill area, served as a strategic fuel break and containment line for the Robbers Fire,” said Brian Mulhollen, battalion chief in the Bureau of Land Management’s Mother Lode Field Office. (text continues below)

blackened trees and ground on on other side of fireline from green trees
The black line shows where the Robbers Fire swas topped, with help from the fuel break.

firefighters battle wildfire flames
Firefighters battle the Robbers Fire

In 2007, The Foresthill / Iowa Hill Fire Safe Council submitted a grant application to the California Fire Safe Council Grants Clearinghouse for fuels reduction work along ridgelines in the Iowa Hill area.

This application stemmed from a partnership between the fire safe council, the BLM and CALFIRE’s Nevada – Yuba – Placer Unit to build strategic fuel breaks in this fire-prone area of Placer County, Mulhollen said.

A $106,250 grant was approved by the grants clearinghouse and funded by the BLM. The fire safe council, using local contractors, installed a 75-acre fuel break along ridgelines that included private and federal lands in spring 2008. This was one of several projects that have been implemented since 2003 by the fire safe council, he said.

On July 11, the Robbers Fire started near Shirttail Canyon and Yankee Jims Road northwest of Foresthill. It quickly spread throughout the steep, fire-prone terrain in the American River Canyon up to Kings Hill, the main ridge line above the fire.

During suppression efforts, fire managers were faced with inaccessible terrain and extreme fuel loading that allowed few areas where firefighting resources could engage and control the fire.

“The fuel break on Kings Hill was one of the few exceptions,” he said. Due to the fuel reduction from the 2008 project, firefighters were able to gain access and defend homes safely and strategically. Dozers were able to operate more rapidly due to the fuel break which gave them time to create a control line that protected the community of Colfax.

“This would have not been possible without the Kings Hill fuel break due to the extreme fuel loading and the probable fire behavior that would have occurred in this area,” Mulhollen said.

With the Kings Hill fuel break as an example of their benefits, the Mother Lode Field Office has been planning strategic fuel breaks and prescribed fire projects for the 2013 field season and will continue its partnership with the Foresthill / Iowa Hill Fire Safe Council.

an area cleared of brush amid trees
The Indian Creek fuel break helped stop the Robbers Fire.

- David Christy, BLM Central California Public Affairs (September 2012)

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 547 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.

Last updated: 09-06-2012