May 12, 2021 – More than eight months after the CZU Lightning Complex Fire swept through Big Basin, signs of renewal can be seen. Wildflowers are blooming, charred redwoods are basal sprouting, and birds are chirping among the trees.
Although plants and animals are returning to Big Basin, the fire still isn’t completely out. In April, some areas in the backcountry rekindled due to dry and warm conditions. Fire and high winds impact when work crews are able to safely enter the park. So far workers have replaced 18 culverts, cut down over 3000 hazardous trees inside the park, and cleared several dirt roads and trails despite the dangerous conditions.
In the initial months after the fire, the California Environmental Protection Agency had to assess all toxics in the park, including asbestos and propane tanks. Caltrans continues to clear unstable trees along Highway 236, and the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery will soon work to clear burned wreckage from the park, which could take another eight to 10 months.
State Parks is working closely with Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and CalOES to assess the repair needs for all park units impacted by the 2020 wildfires. Based on preliminary figures, the recovery at Big Basin is estimated to be around $186 million. However, this will likely change in the coming months as the department continues to assess damages.