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Butte Prescribed Burn Association clears and burns vegetation near major evacuation route

Butte Prescribed Burn Association clears and burns vegetation near major evacuation route.
Jamie Jiang
/
NSPR
Butte Prescribed Burn Association clears and burns vegetation near major evacuation route.

After a record year of burning for the Butte County prescribed fire community, the Butte Prescribed Burn Association (PBA) hosted its first pile burn of 2024, clearing about an acre of vegetation near a major evacuation route.

Formed under the county’s Resource Conservation District in 2019, the Butte PBA aims to help landowners light prescribed burns on their properties to conserve natural resources, as well as promote fire safety.

Two dozen volunteers worked at a site in Butte Valley, sawing trees and tending burn piles. A few feet away, trucks whizzed by on Pentz Road. Anyone driving from Paradise toward Oroville could glimpse the flames and rising smoke.

Laura-Lyn Burch, landowner of the property, invited the PBA to help with the pile burn to make the evacuation route near her home safer.

“I’m helping not just myself, but I’m helping my neighbors, and I’m helping the evacuation route all at the same time.”
- Laura-Lyn Burch, Butte County landowner

During the deadly Camp Fire five years ago, tens of thousands of people — including Burch — fled using Pentz Road.

“Pentz was at a standstill,” Burch said. “That's how many cars were on the road all trying to leave.”

Burch wants the PBA to create a fuel break between Pentz and her home.

The pile burn is the last step, a way to get rid of all the vegetation that’s been cleared.

Burch believes it could keep future evacuees safe if they’re stopped in their cars again. And if a fire starts on Pentz Road, the work will help it spread slower to her community.

“I'm helping not just myself, but I'm helping my neighbors, and I'm helping the evacuation route all at the same time,” Burch said. “So it's kind of a triple whammy.”

Laura-Lyn Burch lives in Butte Valley, where she was evacuated on Pentz Road during the 2018 Camp Fire.
Jamie Jiang.
/
NSPR
Laura-Lyn Burch lives in Butte Valley, where she was evacuated on Pentz Road during the 2018 Camp Fire.

David Mitchell, with the Butte County Resource Conservation District and coordinator for the PBA, said he was excited to see the volunteers working on Burch’s property.

“[I’m] satisfied that we're getting something done.” he said. “And also like, looking at the bigger picture going, it's just a drop in the bucket.”

There’s more work to be done reaching out to landowners and involving community members in prescribed burns, Michell said. And Burch agrees.

“I think every property owner should be pile burning, that can pile burn,” she said.

Burch hopes Butte County communities can help each other burn more. She said everyone who lives in fire country has an obligation to make their community more fire safe.

Burch was especially eager to get her pile burns done this month to take advantage of recent favorable weather conditions.

While wet weather ensures safe fire-lighting conditions and Cal Fire continues to waive burn permits for Butte County this winter, landowners will likely conduct more burns in the coming days. For example, in February, a landowner in Forest Ranch will host volunteers for the PBA’s second pile burn event of the year.

Jamie is NSPR’s wildfire reporter and Report For America corps member. She covers all things fire, but her main focus is wildfire recovery in the North State. Before NSPR, Jamie was at UCLA, where she dabbled in college radio and briefly worked as podcast editor at the Daily Bruin.