Wildland fire access & area familiarization for new chief officers
Thursday, Jul 27, 2023
  • CAL FIRE CZU Unit Forester Rich Sampson hosted three truck trail tours this month. Nearly every year, Forester Sampson takes mostly newer Chief Officers in the unit on this comprehensive and outstanding tour across the truck trails of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

    Truck trails are roads for Wildland Fire Engine access throughout the mountains. They are the way we make access with our equipment to wildland fires. Truck trails are maintained as time and budget allows.

    Historically, there used to exist more truck trails in the region, but some have not been maintained as ownership of the land has changed.  The system was built during a time when there were not as many homes across the Santa Cruz mountains. Now we’re dealing with many more residences throughout the truck trail system.

    Says Sampson, “Most wildland fires are kept small when we can drive very close to them very quickly. 

    The longer it takes for us to get to a fire, the bigger the fire gets and the harder it is to put out. That’s why being familiar with the truck trail system and maintaining it helps to keep fires small.” 

    This year, we drove between 60 and 70 miles on each tour. Stops included Ward Truck Trail, Old Haul Road, Pescadero County Park, North Butano Truck Trail, South Butano Truck Trail, Chalks Truck Trail, Gazos Creek Road, Little Basin, Eagle Rock, Kings Creek Truck Trail, Mount Bielawski Lookout, and Old Sandy Point Guard Station. 

    Ceanothus is a good plant that helps replace nitrogen in the soil. It grows very quickly after a disturbance like fire. It can take over roads, and the roads become impassable.

    CAL FIRE CZU Unit Forester Rich Sampson says “A year and a half ago, the ground here had nothing green on it. It was just burnt ash and trees. All the green vegetation on the ground grew because of the rain, and because the soil had great nutrients after the fire.  Ash has all kinds of nutrients and ceanothus are disturbance-based plants. Now that there’s been a big disturbance, they are growing very quickly. An immediate clearing opened up, and they respond like this to the sunlight.”