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SOURCE: US News and World Report

DATE: March 14, 2019

SNIP: Bulldozer drivers cut 305 miles (491 kilometers) of fire lines through scenic forest land last year in a desperate bid to stop a massive wildfire’s advance on a Northern California city; an effort an environmentalist group said Thursday was largely ineffective.

The Oregon-based Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, & Ecology organization released a report detailing bulldozer use during the July wildfire that killed eight people and destroyed 1,000 homes in and around Redding. One dozer driver died and another was seriously hurt.

The report concluded that flying embers driving the fire rendered almost useless the bulldozers’ cutting of “catlines” to clear trees and vegetation in its path.

“Numerous catlines were carved into the hills and ridgelines north, south and west of the city trying to stop the spread of the fire, but almost all of them were breached by flying embers that were lofted in hot, dry, fast-moving winds that spread flames over the catlines,” the report said. “Months after the wildfire was over, the damage left behind by the vast network of catlines is now revealing itself.”

Cal Fire routinely sends in “suppression repair” crews behind the bulldozers almost as soon as the fire moves through and the ground cools off. Those crews use an array of heavy equipment, including dozers, to repair damage caused creating the catlines.

But the environmental group’s report says those repair efforts aren’t enough to fix most of the damage, including the creation of “ghost roads” that scar pristine forests and remain for years.

Catlines displace soils and destabilize slopes, denude native vegetation and help spread flammable invasive weeds, degrade water quality and closed canopy forest habitat, destroy Native American artifacts and heritage sites, and despoil the scenery of fire affected wildlands,” the report concluded.