Bloom After the Burn

Day in and day out as we travel along the back roads of the San Bernardino National Forest the remnants of human festivities could often be found underneath the lush green pines, unauthorized campfire rings. The large dark stones and black ash contrasting starkly against the lushness of the forest announcing their presence and staining the earth black with soot. Oftentimes increasing in frequency during holidays such as 4th of July, Memorial Day, or Labor Day the sighting of these rings has brought continual frustration on our part as the summer heat continues to beat down and dry the flora surrounding it. While our main goal is seed collecting and target species monitoring another responsibility of ours is to destroy the rings to prevent further use, in hopes of preventing a fire from sweeping through the area. The process of destruction relatively simple, in that we disperse the rocks throughout the area and break apart the ash in an attempt to wipe its presence away for good. While the potential for fire spread itself is our main concern these rings oftentimes have large shards of melted or fractured glass in them that can be hazardous to others as well. Even after a site had been cleared of its rings the remnants of their presence still could be seen throughout like messy smudges drawn into the earth.

Above is a large fire ring we found and destroyed at Lytle Creek, one of many found in the area that day.

One site in particular known as Lytle Creek was filled with these unauthorized rings and in one day, we destroyed a total of 20 after a busy holiday weekend. Concerning as is, we discovered also that one of the rings was still hot to the touch even days after its previous owners had abandoned it. The last fire that ran through Lytle Creek was only a few years ago and was started by an unauthorized campfire ring such as this. While the continual finding of these rings proves frustrating it is rather beautiful to see how the forest regrows after a fire. Places that were once burn scarred or barren now begin to blossom again with native flora. During our drives through the various habitats in the forest we’ve stumbled upon a handful of burn scarred areas that are slowly recovering with time and restoration efforts. While it can be disheartening to see these beautiful habitats be abused or destroyed it is incredibly rewarding in playing a part in aiding in their recovery. During my time working in Big Bear with the restoration team I’ve taken part in two Green Thumb events on the forest that utilize both staff and volunteers to aid in restoring damaged habitats such as these. With the help of volunteers, we’ve been able to replant 100s of native species into areas that were once bare plots of earth. This work could not be done without the help of the volunteers that work in these events and we are incredibly grateful for the time they spend in helping us restore and preserve the forest for future generations to enjoy. Overall, it’s been a blast being a part of these restorations’ projects on the forest and I look forward to the month of September where we will be having a large volunteer event taking place that will involve the planting of around 400 plants!! Until then, I hope everyone is having a lovely time working out of their different locations and I look forward to reading your blogs!

A burn scarred area in Lytle Creek that is slowly recovering from a past fire caused by unauthorized campfire rings with Yerba Santa sprouting back up again.
Joshua Trees sprouting back up again from a past fire that occurred in Cactus Flats.