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SISKIYOU & MODOC COUNTIES, Calif. - 70% of Lava Beds National Monument was burned in the Caldwell Fire which started on July 22, but with destruction also comes new growth in the park.
Just south of the Oregon border lies Lava Beds National Monument but these days it looks a lot different.
What was once lush landscape, is now scorched. It stretches as far as the eye can see. The culprit? The Caldwell Fire. The largest fire in California since 2018. It burned a total of 80,859 acres in Siskiyou & Modoc counties.
"The fire burned mixed vegetation. It went through sagebrush and open grasslands but to the south of us it got into some ponderosa pine and pine forest. Here in the monument we have a lot of juniper trees and they went up like flares." -Mark Blackburn, Chief of Visitor Services at Lava Beds National Monument.
It burned about 70% of the park - over popular caves, attractions and some historical battle sites. But for the most part, the native american paintings & petroglyphs survived the fire, as did the visitor center. The fire has revealed a lot of the lava fields previously covered by thick vegetation.
The visitation rates to the monument could also go up because of the fire.
"I think that because this is such a unique event, we could actually see an uptick in visitation as people want to see what a landscape looks like after a major wildfire." -Mark Blackburn, Chief of Visitor Services at Lava Beds National Monument.
The Caldwell Fire started on July 22 after a thunderstorm rolled through the area, leading to several lightning-caused fires. In the coming days and weeks, more thunderstorms passed nearby - fanning the flames.
Thomas Howell was forced to evacuate. He is all too familiar with wildfires, as he is a Camp Fire survivor.
"It got really close to here. We had to like get all of our quads, our dirt bikes, our boat, everything out of here. We tried to get everything we could to leave because the camp fire kind of made us scared for this fire. It was scary for me. A lot of, like, I felt like a lot of emotions like that. I really don't know how to explain it." -Thomas Howell, Camp Fire survivor in Tionesta.
Thankfully no homes were destroyed and all evacuations lifted.
Ken Sandusky with the Modoc National Forest says it could have been a lot worse without preventative measures.
"They didn't show great success but there is still hope that the fire intensity was lessened to where the impacts on the plants in the area may have been lessened as well. It's going to be awhile before we can realize if that's the case or not but those are the hope. Fuels managers have been planning for this for a long time. They did things ahead of time in order to protect structures and privately held businesses or lands." -Ken Sandusky, Modoc National Forest Public Information Officer.
Next year the national monument should have a new coat of grass to cover the char below.
"It looks like a disaster happened. A disaster did happen. But fire is a part of this landscape and this truly is a new foundation for mother nature to build upon." -Mark Blackburn, Chief of Visitor Services at Lava Beds National Monument.