The Holiday Farm fire ignited the night of September 7, 2020, south of the Andrews Forest. Fire entered the Andrews Forest on September 12, at the south boundary of Watershed 9, and progressed northward into Watershed 1, then Watershed 2. The fire burned mostly at low severity within the Andrews Forest, moving along the ground. We see small areas of canopy tree death in these watersheds, where fire continues to smolder in large snags, logs and roots, and could overwinter as embers to reignite next spring.
Our attention turns now to assessing the damage from the fire and the fire suppression activities. Our headquarters facility was spared, and the stream gauging stations in the three burned watersheds suffered minor or no damage. Fire lines were dug by hand and by bulldozer in Watersheds 1 and 2, along the 1507 and 2633 roads, and around the headquarters. In some places the fire and fire lines impacted permanent vegetation plots that have been studied for 50 years, and went through study plots for soil moisture, hydrology, plant phenology, and forest microclimate. Much of the cost of repairing research infrastructure will be the expense of extensive personnel time to relocate and resurvey the damaged areas and reinstall sensors.
As we have learned from our long-term work in the Andrews Forest, many unplanned disturbances happen over time; Watershed 1, for example, experienced extensive toppling of the young forest by heavy snow in the winter of 2019. With each event comes new opportunity to learn about this dynamic landscape. Researchers are working quickly to set up monitoring and studies that will help us learn from the fire, and we have decades of pre-fire data to use as the foundation for comparisons.