CAL FIRE thins brush, widens trails on Merriam Mountains

Fire Safety


CAL FIRE crews have added an extra layer of protection by slashing through brush to improve five miles of truck trails and reduce the fire hazard on Merriam Mountains.

The mountains are overgrown with thick stands of old-growth chaparral that have not burned in decades.

Recent fires that sparked along the Interstate 15 at the base of the mountains spread quickly through the brush, climbing the slope and threatening homes. Quick action by CAL FIRE air and ground crews halted the fires’ advance.

“Improving the truck trails adds an extra layer of protection for firefighters and gives us access to make rescues in rough terrain,” said CAL FIRE Division Chief Nick Schuler. Upgrading the truck trails will allow firefighters to reach places on the mountains that have been unreachable, giving them better vantage points to fight fires.

Part of the project entailed bridging a deep ravine that emergency vehicles could not cross, which forced firefighters to go a mile or so out of their way to reach the other side. Crews laid a new culvert in the gully to bridge the gap.

The work on Merriam Mountains is one of several fire prevention initiatives that CAL FIRE has undertaken in the Deer Springs Fire Protection District over the past weeks. Hand crews from the Rainbow Conservation Camp recently thinned brush in the Hidden Meadows Community Foundation Park.

And CAL FIRE is about to construct a fuel break along Moosa Canyon’s eastern ridge line to protect Hidden Meadows. Moosa Canyon is a steep gorge that separates Hidden Meadows and Valley Center. Hidden Meadows is vulnerable to a wildfire driven by easterly Santa Ana winds; a fuel break on the canyon’s rim would provide a line of defense. CAL FIRE officials will soon be contacting property owners along the Moosa Canyon ridgeline to discuss the project.

Most of the work on Merriam Mountains was performed by Rainbow Conservation Camp’s women inmates, who spent about 60 days hacking and removing brush. Bulldozer crews also spent about 100 hours smoothing and improving the trails.

Schuler said that the project is being paid for by funds from State Responsibility Area fees and went through the necessary environmental review. He said that CAL FIRE appreciated the cooperation of Merriam Mountains’s 20 or so landowners, the largest of which is Newland Sierra, who allowed access to their property to make the project possible.

A version of this article appears in Fire Safety News, a monthly e-newsletter published by the Deer Springs Fire Safe Council. To subscribe go to and click on the “SUBSCRIBE” link.