Recalling Our Summer Of Smoke


Monday marked the two-year anniversary of the lightening storms that sparked thousands of fires all over Northern California. Remember all of that? In the Redding area, we choked on smoke as thick as tule fog for the following two months. It was truly miserable.

I recall heading over to the Bureau of Land Management’s Swasey recreation area for a run that morning two years ago. The parking lot was packed, suggesting that I wasn’t the only person who assumed the thunder and lightening from the previous few hours had passed. I had not been out more than 15 minutes before an incredibly loud thunderclap nearly caused me to soil myself. I kept going for a few more minutes, but when I saw lightening strike the ridge less than two miles away, I quickly retreated while thunder sounded all around me. By the time I reached the parking lot, every vehicle except two was gone. Obviously, most people had more sense than I did.

It’s a tribute to the firefighters that what I remember from two years ago is a stupid run and lots of smoke – and not the widespread loss of homes. Yes, some extremely wide firebreaks that were bulldozed through the vegetation still scar hillsides around Igo, French Gulch, Old Shasta and Keswick. In retrospect, we didn’t need some of those fire lines. But back in late June of 2008, the situation was very scary, and those of us who lived in the vicinity were cheering the bulldozers.

I’m hopeful that our late spring rains will minimize this year’s fire season. In the meantime, I think I’ll go whack the last few weeds still standing on my property.


• The second annual “Field to Fork” festival in Red Bluff is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, June 26, at River Park. A pancake breakfast, a farmers’ market, displays of local art, and some free samples are all on tap for the Slow Food Shasta Cascade-sponsored event.

• Those of you who are not regular viewers of public television might want to flip over to Channel 9 at 7 p.m. this Thursday and Friday, June 24 and 25, for KIXE’s annual summer auction. The variety of things on which you may bid is enormous: a family outing to Legoland and Sea Life Aquarium near San Diego, houseboat vacations on local lakes, a concrete picnic table, works of art, even a burial plot at Redding Memorial Park. You may bid on some items online at

• Did you see the Forbes’ map, derived from Internal Revenue Service data, of migration in the United States?  The map for Shasta County shows that most people who move to Shasta County come from areas to the south, and that most people leaving Shasta County head north.

• Let me add one more mention of the June 25 deadline for women 50 years and older to register for free breast cancer screening at Mercy Regional Cancer Center. Early detection saved my mother’s life twice, so I’m a believer.

shigley-mugshotPaul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and a big chicken in a thunderstorm. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at

Paul Shigley

has been a professional journalist since 1987. For 12 years, he served as editor or senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a statewide trade publication for land use planners, real estate development professionals and attorneys. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter or editor at newspapers in Redding, Grass Valley, Napa and Calistoga. Shigley's work also has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Planning magazine, Governing magazine, California Law Week, National Speed Sport News and elsewhere. In addition, he is co-author of Guide to California Planning, a college text and reference book, and is currently working on a book for the American Planning Association about the Bay Delta and California water resources. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Shigley has contributed to A News Cafe since 2009. He and his wife, Dana, live in western Shasta County.