The Siskiyou County CCC crew consists of 15 workers referred to as “blue hats.” Together, they will cut and chip a shady fuel break to slow the forest growth on about 10 acres north of McCloud.
The McCloud Fire Safe Council has been working to protect the McCloud community against forest fires with fuel breaks since 2002.
“McCloud is basically encircled by fuel breaks except for the very north part which is what we are working on now,” said Ron Berryman, CEO of the Fire Safe Council and consulting forester. “This year’s main goal is to clean up lower Panther Timber Harvest north of town on road M15 to complete the fuel break around our community.”
Berryman contacted California Conservation Corp (CCC) to cut a fuel break 100 feet on each side of the road.
The CCC is a state program that trains young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 on fire re-habitation, planting for erosion control, emergency response for fire or flood with logistic support or “boots on the ground,” salmon restoration creating fish habitat and help with migration and reproduction, classes for the use of tools and running equipment and to help develop skills with good work ethics.
The Siskiyou County CCC crew consists of 15 workers referred to as “blue hats.” Together, they will cut and chip a shady fuel break to slow the forest growth on about 10 acres north of McCloud. They will work full time for three weeks for the Fire Safe Council on this project.
There are designated sawyers to run the chainsaws and swampers to support the sawyers by removing brush and assisting the sawyers with refueling or maintenance on the chainsaws. Pullers are secondary to the swampers with brush removal. Then there are the chippers that come along behind the first crew to chip up the brush, leaving a layer on the ground to assist in slowing the regrowth of the forest along the fuel breaks.
Jordan Peterson wants a career as a wildland fire investigator and says that this job will look good on a resume for scholarships. “This is the best job I’ve ever had,” she said. “I enjoy being outdoors and seeing so much of the wilderness.”
Conservationist Julien Fannin is the crew supervisor on this project. He is a full time state employee.
“We are in a pretty high-functioning district,” Fannin said. “We are a non-residential center where our crew goes home at the end of each work day.”
With the ground still covered in patches of snow and ice, like working fire ants, the crew scurries through the brush and in no time, it becomes open space. Marked in blue hard hats and wearing protective gear, a voice calls out a warning just before a small tree crashes down.
“This is the most dangerous projects for injuries,” explained Fannin. He said his crew hasn’t had any injuries, although it is common to break fingers in this line of work, among other injuries.
The state funds 60% of the CCC and the rest comes from the land owners or the companies that hire them.
“They are donating their time to us,” said Berryman. McCloud Fire Safe Council is a non-profit 501c3 organization and is funded by grants. All members on the council are volunteers.
Should a forest fire come the McCloud area, the fuel break will help keep the fire on the ground so it can be fought.
“Once a fire gets in the crown of the trees, there is no way of stopping it,” said Berryman. McCloud has acquired only 63% of average snow this season.
“Imagine a fire storm with embers the size of your thumb coming towards your house. Your house won’t survive with pine needles on the roof or debris stacked around your property,” said Berryman, who encourages homeowners to make their homes as firesafe as possible. “Trees cut back away from buildings, spaced apart and with limbs eight feet above the ground, along with planting resistant plants will save your home.”
For more information on fireproofing your property, the McCloud Fire Safe Council meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Scout Hall at 6 p.m. For more information contact Berryman at (530) 964-2103.