Where’s the fire?

In our recent San Mateo County redwood forest hikes, we have run across areas that show signs of fire. It’s been a long time since a large scale forest fire has burned in this region, so it’s always surprising to see the burned out bases of old redwoods, or charred bark way up high on living trees. You see quite a bit of it though. Here’s an example; the burned base of a redwood is amazingly still upright, with just a small part of the tree still in the ground.

It looks like the tree was logged long ago, and the tree stump burned in a later fire. My limited research indicates that fires were not uncommon in these forests during the thousands of years that Ohlone tribes lived around here. They used fires in grasslands and oak groves above around the redwood groves for various reasons. But there haven’t been good-sized forest fires in there for over 100 years. Both redwood and charcoal are quite durable, the evidence would suggest.

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