Cleveland fire: 10 years later |

Cleveland fire: 10 years later

The Cleveland fire, sparked by illegal wood cutting in the Eldorado National Forest, burned 24,000 acres and cost $18 million to control.

It shut down Highway 50 along the South Fork of the American River for days, burned down 41 structures and caused an estimated $245 million in losses to the region’s economy.

If not for a light rain on Oct. 1, 1992, forest officials believe the blaze could have spread to the edge of Desolation Wilderness, burning 50,000 acres.

Now, 10 years later, the effort to revitalize the forest is being called a success because many of the 4 million seedlings have taken root and grown to 15 feet. It may become a forest that can managed with controlled fire, which is a goal.

“We have enough trees per acre that we can plan on molding this into a forest, and plan for prescribed burning at the right time and conditions,” said Bob Carroll, a reforestation project manager.

A lot of work went into the plan to reforest the area and the process went smoothly, with no public objections, said Frank Mosbacher, spokesman for Eldorado Forest, which had more than 11,000 of its 600,000 acres burned by the fire.

The fact that the seedlings (firs, pines, giant sequoias, cedars) went in the ground not long after the fire enhanced the reforestation process. Planting the tiny trees before brush and other vegetation takes means less competition, Carroll said.

“We actually won a national award for the recovery effort here…. It was smoking in October and we we’re logging in July,” Mosbacher said.

The $15 million reforestation effort took more than three years and was funded by the sale of timber burned in the fire.

Foresters spread barley seed, used bales of straw and felled trees to prevent erosion. A number of standing dead trees seen from the highway today were left as habitat for the spotted owl and other wildlife. Seeds stored in cold storage in Camino were planted at specific elevations so they could thrive.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User