Oregon redwoods 'severely burned' by Chetco Bar Fire

One of the last groves of Oregon redwoods was "severely burned" by the Chetco Bar Fire, according to U.S. Forest officials.

Oregon's largest wildfire, burning in southwest Oregon, roared into the Wheeler Creek Natural Area and torched 25 percent of the area's old-growth redwoods, U.S. Forest Service officials said last week.

Click here for more information on the fire

There are around four groves of naturally-occurring redwoods remaining on Oregon soil, located mostly in small patches just north of the California state line.

The Wheeler Creek redwoods are located in a 600-acre preserve in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, about 20 miles southeast of Brookings near the more popular Oregon Redwoods Trail.

The Wheeler Creek grove is considered the best of the Oregon redwoods, with many trees eclipsing 200 feet, according to "This Land: A Guide To Western National Forests" by Robert Mohlenbrock.

While a number of trees were impacted, officials said the fire burned only lightly through the understory of the other 75 percent of the natural area.

"Old-growth redwoods have exceptionally thick bark, which makes them highly fire resistant," a post on Facebook from Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest said. "Fires of low to moderate severity are unlikely to damage them." 

 

Forest officials said many of the Wheeler Creek redwoods were already scarred from previous fires, leaving some with hollow trunks, according to a Facebook post.

To avoid damaging the redwoods during fire suppression, firefighters were issued specific instructions to use indirect attack, whenever possible, and avoid the use of fire retardant.

"But with several homes located within four to six miles of the redwoods, firefighters were also told to use more aggressive tactics, when needed, to prevent loss of life and property," the post said. 

Once covering wide swaths of northwest California and southwest Oregon, only 5 percent of the original redwood forest remains, mostly in California's Redwood National and State Parks system. 

© 2017 KGW-TV


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