As firefighters slowly gain an upper hand on the North Bay fires, first responders and officials are still reviewing the impacts. And the assessments aren’t focusing solely on lost human lives and immolated homes. Tens of thousands of acres of wildlands and interface areas were blackened, and the scars left on the landscape will remain for years, an omnipresent and sobering reminder of one of the greatest fire disasters in the modern history of the United States.
The impacts on the land are perhaps particularly distressing for Sonoma County residents. The county is not as heavily urbanized as many portions of Southern California, or even the communities clustered around San Francisco Bay. A pronounced green ethos prevails in Sonoma County, particularly in regard to the state and regional parks. Locals love them fiercely. It is a rare resident who doesn’t spend time in them: camping, fishing or diving at the coastal parks, hiking at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Hood Mountain Regional Park, mountain biking at Trione-Annadel State Park, birding at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail, or simply strolling around Spring Lake Regional Park.
So concern about the fires’ impacts on the public parks is assured. But there’s some good news. First, as of this writing, most if not all of the critical infrastructure at the parks appears to have been protected by the diligence –– indeed, heroism –– of first responders and park staffers.
While Jack London State Historic Park has not burned, staffers have removed items of critical cultural significance and treated buildings with Thermo-Gel, a fire retardant compound; the park will remain closed until further notice. Historic structures at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, including the observatory, visitor center and a venerable barn, have escaped the flames, and were likewise treated with Thermo-Gel.
“There’s a lot of fire in Sugarloaf, and our concern remains high,” said Gloria Sandoval, the deputy director of public relations for the California Department of State Parks and Recreation. “The park is closed, but we’re hopeful we’ll be able to continue protecting our significant structures.”
Trione-Annadel State Park in Sonoma County, and Robert Lewis Stevenson State Park in Napa are closed because of active fires, Sandoval said.
“We don’t have exact figures yet, but a lot of Trione-Annadel has burned, and I know that at least half of Robert Lewis Stevenson has burned,” Sandoval said. The status of an employee residence near Robert Lewis Stevenson Park is not known, Sandoval said.
No fires are reported at Sonoma State Historic Park and Bothe-Napa Valley and Bale Grist Mill State Parks, but all have been closed. As with Sugarloaf and Jack London, items of cultural significance have been removed from Sonoma State Historic Park, Sandoval said. Buildings also have been treated with Thermo-Gel.
“The situation remains active, change has been and may remain rapid, and we haven’t had the opportunity for full assessments,” said Sandoval, explaining the closures. “Right now our focus remains on public safety and the safety of our employees.”
Sonoma County maintains more than 50 regional parks and public recreational properties, and some have been severely affected by the fires. Particularly hard hit are Shiloh Ranch Regional Park in Windsor and Hood Mountain Regional Park in Santa Rosa, said Melanie Parker, the natural resource manager, interim parks manager and deputy director for the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department.