by Julian Meisler
Lakeville Highway is prone to accidents and every year we see at least one vehicle come through the fence at our Sears Point property. In 2016, one section of fence was hit three times! So far this year, we’ve had only one accident, but the damage was significant.
When a grass fire starts, firefighters don’t waste valuable time looking for gates — they cut fences. When fence posts are burning, they don’t risk the chance of having a smoldering post reignite later — they cut them. The cost of all of this falls on us unless we can track down the driver and their insurance company. CHP incident reports don’t always lead where we hope they will.
In August, a collision resulted in the downing of a power pole and the burning of about 30 acres at Sears Point. About 600 feet of fencing and fence posts will need to be replaced. To ensure that the fire did not spread even further, a fire break was bulldozed around the perimeter for about half a mile, plus more onto our neighbor’s property.
The cost is unfortunate, but we don’t fault the firefighters. They are only doing their job and we are grateful for them. Furthermore, the grassland is likely to benefit from the fire — it can play a vital role by clearing thatch and potentially destroying some of the non-native seed bank.
It will be interesting to watch the burn area through the spring to see what returns. We might see things we don’t want, like a line of yellow star thistle in the bulldozed firebreak, but we may also see germination of native grasses, like purple needle grass, meadow barley and creeping wild rye, as well as forbs like fiddleneck, lupine, checkerbloom and violets.
I happened to take some photos of the burn area last February as we evaluated it for future creek and wetland restoration. Last week, as I rode through the area on our ATV, I shot more photos; at least one photo lines up pretty well, offering a nice before and after of the burned acreage. Most interesting will be seeing what another photo will reveal next spring after the rains.
You can watch this change, too. The burn area is easily visible from Lakeville Highway — just don’t take your eyes off the road for too long!
Julian Meisler is Sonoma Land Trust's Baylands program manager.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.