Many hazards exist including fire-weakened trees, burned stump holes and missing trail signs
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif., March 31, 2022 – The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) reminds recreationists to use caution when recreating in the 2021 Caldor Fire area. Residents and visitors should be aware of their surroundings and use common sense when recreating in the burn area. Burned landscapes present numerous safety hazards for recreationists that either did not exist prior to the fire or have been worsened by the effects of the fire.
“Risks to those choosing to recreate in the Caldor Fire burn area will continue to evolve over the next several years,” said Public Services Staff Officer, Daniel Cressy. “Always practice responsible recreation and be aware of your surroundings including wind and other weather conditions, which can weaken fire-damaged trees.”
No area closures are in currently place on the LTBMU. All trailheads and trails in the burned area are open, however multiple hazards may exist. Hikers, mountain bikers and others venturing into the burn area should be prepared to navigate without visible trails or trail signs and be sure to bring along a map, GPS app or device. Practice good stewardship by staying on trails because without live plant roots to anchor the soil, burned soil can easily be worn away.
In addition, please keep the following in mind:
Flash Floods/Debris Flows: Fast-moving, highly destructive flash floods and debris flows triggered by intense rainfall are one of the most dangerous post-fire hazards. The risk of floods and debris flows after a wildfire increases due to vegetation loss and soil exposure. Always avoid recreating in post-fire areas during rain events. If caught unaware, move to high ground. Never attempt to drive or hike through an area that has been flooded or if debris flows have occurred. These types of events hide dips in roads or trails and other obstacles. Worse still, there may not be a road or trail at all. Flooding and debris flows can wash away entire roads or trail surfaces and a significant amount of ground underneath.
Damaged or Dead Trees: After a wildfire, many trees are weakened from burning around the base of the trunk. These trees can fall over, blow down, or drop limbs without warning. Shallow-rooted trees can also fall. Therefore, always be extremely alert when recreating around burned trees, especially after rain events or during high winds. Never picnic, camp, or park a vehicle close to dead trees. Look up while on trails and if the wind kicks up, head to a clearing out of reach of any potential falling trees.
Burned Stump Holes/Root Chambers: Burned stumps may create obvious large holes, but these holes may be bigger than they appear. In many cases, the fire may have traveled through root chambers and consumed the woody root material leaving hollow spaces where solid wood used to be. Overtime, these root chambers will collapse. A person’s body, mountain bike or vehicle weight may cause these chambers to collapse, potentially opening a hole. Large trees have particularly big root chambers that can be very deep. Be especially wary after rain events as the moisture may travel through the root chambers and make collapse easier.
For information about open and closed Caldor Fire areas on the Eldorado National Forest, visit their website.