montgomery woods fire report

The fire situation has calmed nicely around Mendocino County. The roads are open, the evacuations have been called off, the fires are contained or out. On the Coast, we hadn’t seen the sun for a week or so, so I thought I’d go inland to Montgomery Woods for an afternoon.
There were several fires near Montgomery Woods, a nearby hot spring resort—Orr Springs—had been evacuated, and the road through the area had been closed. Since the main old growth grove at Montgomery Woods is in a low, damp drainage, it seemed likely that the grove had been spared. When I got there, I found signs saying the park was closed. So, I loaned my camera to my evil twin Skippy and sent him into the main grove. He filed this report.
From the road, there is no sign of fire. As soon as you start up the trail to the grove, though, you encounter a whole burned hillside. More specifically, the understory is burned. The larger trees look OK. (For those of you unfamiliar with the biology of redwood trees, it’s worth noting that they have thick, fire resistant bark.)
In the main Montgomery Grove, some areas are just fine, lush and green and healthy:


In much of the grove, the ground had been burned and ash covered the ground, making it look like it had been snowing:

Some places had oases of lush greenery surrounded by scorched earth:

In a few areas, the devastation is terrible:

Some places were still smoldering:

A few downed logs were glowing red hot:

Through it all, there is still lots of bird life in the grove. I heard a normal amount of sounds from chickadees, wrens, thrushes, etc. I even saw this (I’m pretty sure it’s a) juvenile northern spotted owl:

I’m not sure if this owl was terribly stressed by the fire or not. Did its nest burn? Did it get any barbequed mouse treats from the fire?

Over all, it’s very sad to see the beautiful treasure of Montgomery Woods in such a charred state. The good news is that the big trees are almost all ok, and the understory should recover fairly quickly. It will be interesting to watch the recovery process over the next few years.

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