Doors of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area headquarters officially reopened almost five weeks after one of the largest wildfires in California’s history swept through the park, ultimately burning 39,000 of its 42,000 acres. After enduring an extremely trying and overwhelming time, the park laid down one more brick in a new foundation.
“We’re not fully back yet, but we’re going to work together and move forward,” Acting Superintendent Patrick Gubbins said during an all-employee meeting. “Taking this on and preparing for the future; that’s what we are about.”
When the wildfire began within park boundaries on July 23, residents and staff in all operations were immediately impacted. By the end, 13 park employees lost their homes and more than half of park staff was displaced for periods from three to 21 days. Park law enforcement rangers were assisting with community evacuations while their own families were also being evacuated. Volunteers and colleagues in the cooperating association, friends group, and concessions were also facing hardships resulting from the fire.
Long before the smoke settled, the Whiskeytown community stepped into action to provide assistance. Homes were opened to those displaced, donations collected, and meals shared with affected neighbors and response crews. Neighboring Lassen Volcanic National Park rearranged housing and took in five seasonals for several weeks.
Despite personal challenges, park staff, and partners have largely returned to work, regularly going above and beyond and tacking on unique tasks in the post-fire recovery efforts. The visitor center has reopened, as has day use at the Whiskey Creek boat ramp and picnic area, East Beach, and the Shasta Divide Nature Trail; however the rest of the park, including trails, parking areas and marinas remain closed to public use due to hazard trees. The majority of the park remains closed as emergency repairs, cleanup, and stabilization continues.
Two incident management teams were brought in to assist the park in the initial post-fire recovery. One Incident Commander, Jim King, shared, “Despite everything this community has been through this last month, the strength, determination, and commitment to move forward has been truly inspiring.”
A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team and park staff have been assessing infrastructure and natural and cultural resources impacted by the fire. The park deeply appreciates the community support and understanding during this time.
The community has been asking how they can assist in the restoration and rebuilding of Whiskeytown. Volunteer opportunities will be announced as they become available and donations can be made to the Friends of Whiskeytown who will provide assistance to the park. Visitors can also support the park by stopping by the visitor center. Proceeds from items purchased from the book store come back to the park to support programs and enhance the visitor experience. You can learn more about the Friends of Whiskeytown by going to friendsofwhiskeytown.org