A letter has been drafted by the Butte County Board of Supervisors for a request for an investigation of last year’s North Complex fire and this year’s Dixie Fire. It was discussed in their last board meeting where a motion for draft changes was approved. The letter’s goal is to find if the decisions made by the United State Forest Sservice leadership, Plumas National Forest, and the Incident Management Commanders were decisions made for full suppression or for managing the resource. The letter is aimed at the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and the head of the U.S. Forest Service Randy Moore. The letter does in short cite “gross negligence of the USFS fire mitigation philosophy” as well as stating that the “USFS has been derelict in its duty to manage public forestlands…and appears unprepared and incapable of planning for and managing wildfires”.
You can view the unedited first draft of the letter below.
Dear Secretary Vilsack and Chief Moore:
I write today on behalf of the Butte County Board of Supervisors and our constituents, who are deeply concerned about wildfires originating from, and managed by, the Plumas National Forest (PNF). We are requesting that you investigate the PNF’s wildfire management decisions that were made during the North Complex Fire and portions of the Dixie Fire under the leadership of USFS.
As I write today, August 12, 2021, the Dixie Fire has grown to be the second-largest wildfire in California’s known fire history, well exceeding 500,000 acres, and continues to see significant growth. Under the leadership of the federal incident management team, the fire has destroyed the town of Greenville, the community of Canyon Dam, and other small communities. In addition, it has caused the mandatory evacuations of thousands of people in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, and Tehama counties. The North Complex Fire, starting on September 8, 2020, burned over 318,000 acres, destroyed over 2,342 structures and did major damage to the communities of Berry Creek, Feather Falls, Brush Creek, and others.
Fires in our national forests, especially from the PNF, have had significant impacts on our constituents, law enforcement, county staff and emergency personnel. The fire suppression philosophy of the USFS in managing, monitoring, and lack of commitment to protecting private property, has resulted in the loss of a great deal of public resources, private property, homes, and critical infrastructure.
Because of the gross negligence of the USFS fire management philosophy, we no longer have trust and confidence in the decision-making process being used by the USFS. Whatever forest management practices, initial fire attack, and suppression decisions were employed by the USFS and PNF have now been proven to be unsuccessful for protecting communities, sensitive resources, water and air quality, wildlife habitat, and other economic, social, and ecological values.
These two fires and other fires on our national forest lands have completely destroyed the public resource for generations to come and have caused great grief to many for their personal losses. These fires have put man in harm’s way. It is a disappointment to us that the USFS has been derelict in its duty to manage our public forestlands over these past forty-plus years and is appears unprepared and incapable of planning for and managing wildfires.
The Butte County Board of Supervisors respectfully request that you investigate the North Complex and Dixie Fires to ascertain if the decisions made by the USFS leadership, PNF, and the Incident Management Commanders were decisions made for full suppression or for managing the resource. What course of action did the Forest Supervisor initially order (full suppression or observation and monitoring)? When and what decisions were made by the Forest Supervisor and Regional Leadership? When and what decisions were made by the Forest Supervisor and Regional Leadership throughout the fire’s timeline; did those decisions ultimately aid or hamper fire suppression operations by Incident Commanders? Did the Forest Supervisor influence key leadership staffing appointments, by appointing their own staff, to Incident Command Teams?
In addition, we respectfully request reimbursement for costs associated with County’s response to these events, and recovery efforts. Thank you for your time and attention to these matters. We expect and look forward to hearing from you. Something has to change!
Bill Connelly, Chair
Butte County Board of Supervisors