By the Deer Springs Fire Safe Council
Note: The firefighter inmate crews are due to return to the park on March 20, so the time line reflects that for publication on April 1.
A group of chainsaw-wielding women have descended on Hidden Meadows Community Foundation Wilderness Park to finish a job they started in January – thinning out overgrown brush that causes a fire hazard in the heart of the Meadows.
The women, inmates of the Rainbow Conservation Camp, have already cleared tons of brush from the park, significantly reducing the fire threat. While some use chainsaws to hack at the brush, others use Pulaskis and shovels to clear the ground.
“We stopped for four weeks because of poison oak,” said CAL FIRE Division Chief Nick Schuler, who oversees the Rainbow Conservation Camp. “A number of inmates got poison oak. We’ll probably get back out there on March 20.”
The inmate fire crews spent 800 hours in the park earlier this year, removing dead oaks and a layer of underbrush that dried out during the recent drought. Their work has helped ease the fire threat in the Deer Springs Fire Protection District.
“We’ll be working on the east side of the creek, removing the dead and dying vegetation, and then we’ll do some cutting and clearing to make it not only safe, but aesthetically pleasing,” Schuler said.
The park is bound roughly by Meadow Glen Way West on the west, Mountain Meadow Road on the east, Glenmeade Way on the south and Tricia Place on the north. Park access is at the end of Stonington Way.
The park was deeded by Welk Resorts to the Hidden Meadows Community Foundation in 2009 for $1.00 as a community benefit.
The inmate crews are supervised by CAL FIRE and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Schuler said that the crews are also revisiting another fire prevention project, the Welk View Truck Trail in Merriam Mountains, where CAL FIRE crews cleared brush and improved five miles of truck trails to reduce the fire hazard. Merriam Mountains was the scene of two fires last year that began alongside Interstate 15 and scaled the slopes, threatening homes on the west side of the freeway.
The projects are paid for by funds from State Responsibility Area fire prevention fees.