While fire is an essential part of the Sierra Nevada landscape, because of a combination of different factors, today’s wildfires burn hot and heavy, scorching everything, rather than the mild to moderate intensity/severity fires of the past that contributed to forest health by clearing underbrush, thinning trees (without killing the large ones), etc.
The Dixie Fire in 2021 was the largest wildfire in CA history. It ravaged thru just shy of one million acres (963,309) across Plumas, Butte, Shasta, and Lassen counties…and was only a couple miles away from Cull Castle at one point, after the fire had been going for over a month, a new command team had just taken over, and resources were being pulled to the recently-started Caldor fire (gotta save those expensive empty Tahoe vacation homes rather than the full-time Plumas residents, after all).
We literally could feel the heat while we packed our evacuation things (again) as it consumed decades’ worth of extremely flammable pine around Lake Davis, pushed by wind and dry heat. As if the story of how we ended up here isn’t fantastic enough, it is a literal miracle our home that we’d owned for 1 year, 1 week, and 1 day when we were most threatened was not reduced to ash.
If you’d like to check out some of the areas the fire went thru and what they look like now, a year later, here are some car-accessible (at your own risk) spots nearby:
It’s recommended to download your preferred map app for offline use, and/or USFS maps, and/or Avenza (offline map app) – there are several areas with no phone signal!
North of Lake Davis
Dixie burned hot and heavy thru the pines in this area – so hot, we literally felt it at our house.
Follow Lake Davis Rd north along the lake until the paved road ends – keep going along that road. The burn scar starts shortly after the pavement ends.
Crocker Mtn Rd/Guard Station
When heading towards Lake Davis, keep an eye out for Crocker Mtn Rd (about half a mile south of Lake Davis Rd/dam, other side of the road). It will take you around to the old USFS Crocker Mountain Guard Station and Crocker Mtn campground (closed this season).
Crocker Mtn Rd was “our” fire line – the one that was re-opened as a contingent fire line to protect our neighborhood. We heard them chain sawing and masticating away at that road for 2 whole days when Dixie made a run at us – cause we were outside with our own chainsaws doing the same thing on the back of the property.
We woke up one AM thinking perhaps the smoke was clearing because we could suddenly see Crocker Mtn from the house much better….nope, it was just a massive amount of trees that were cut down (and there’s still too many)!
You’ll notice giant piles of timber all along the road waiting to be dealt with. Are you noticing a strange pink-ish tint to some things next to the road? It’s fire retardant that was dropped by aircraft last summer.
There was a rumor that they were going to ‘backburn’ on Crocker Mtn – I wish they would have! Take note of how close all of the trees are, and compare to how close the trees are in our neighborhood! A healthy, well-stocked forest is one that you could play frisbee in, or drive a truck between the trees with ease.
Red Clover Valley
Red Clover Valley very likely saved us. When Dixie started, we were much more preoccupied and concerned with the Beckwourth fire that had started just a few miles away to the east. We watched in horror as the Dixie fire steadily spread across the county, slowly creeping closer to us.
When it got to the north side of Lake Davis, we already had the go bags in the car, but we weren’t too overly concerned – it would have to hook around the lake for us to be in immediate danger, and there were a lot of unusual things that would have to happen for it to go that direction. And of course, all of those unusual things happened. We counted our lucky stars as the fire went east behind Crocker Mtn, and into Red Clover Valley. The flat topography and moister valley dirt didn’t allow it to travel back west again, towards us.
Last updated: June 17, 2022
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