Posted by: Sandy Steinman | February 12, 2020

Old Pine Flat Post-fire Conditions

submitted by Kathi Dowdakin
We drove up to old Pine Flat township site last Saturday.  This area burned extensively in the Kincade Fire of Oct. 2019.  Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Modini Preserve encompasses much of old Pine Flat, about 8 miles uphill from the Alexander Valley.
   Am sorry to report extensive damage along Pine Flat Road.  Not only was the fire very thorough through this area, now the cleanup seems to include cutting down many of the large, old Oak Trees that lined the roadway.   The burnt remains of the Ceanothus, Yerba Santa, Scrub Oak and Manzanitas have been shredded, again, alongside the roadway.  Even if the plants had survived the fire, I’m not sure they’ll survive the mastication.  Most of the pullouts developed by the Preserve are now covered by slash piles, which were being burned, untended, even with the high winds we had over the weekend.
   Little Sulphur Creek is choked with debris & mud.  The Knobcone Pines’ cones were open, so seed dispersal should be good, although the seeds may need more rain to germinate.  For 8 miles at least, both sides of the road have been hydro-seeded, with what the AT&T guys we talked to didn’t know.  I hope it’s not Bermuda Grass.  The smaller Madrones look thoroughly burned, many of them survivors of the 2009 fire in this same area.
   The pretty walk along the Creek, up the hill along the transmission lines is gone.  There are bulbs there, but there are now stacks of logs as well.  The Fawn Lilies at the top of the ridge there may or may not have been bull-dozed — the report from the Preserve FB page isn’t clear.
   A few birds were still to be found at Pine Flat:  Brown Towhees, a couple of Crows, Juncos – otherwise, very quiet up there.  Still some shooting at the top of the hill, but we didn’t go that far.  The upper pumping station area is being used as a helicopter pad during the week, with repairs being made to the transmission towers.  I don’t know how much damage there was to the Calpine equipment, but there was obviously some, somewhere.
   And the Chaparral Pea was so beautiful last spring, with magenta flowers all over the hillsides.  Sigh…..

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