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The first page of the article introduces Saylor Flett, left and Jeff Greef as they work on Flett's land.

Smithsonian features Plumas residents and their efforts to combat fire with fire

Look for this cover of the April/May 2023 issue of the Smithsonian magazine for the story. Image of Smithsonian

Some familiar Plumas County faces and organization are featured in the April/May issue of the Smithsonian magazine. The article is titled “Under Control” in the magazine and “Fighting Fire with Fire in California” on the website. Both carry the tagline: How communities in the West are boldly setting property ablaze to reduce the impact of extreme wildfires.

Written by Andria Hautamaki, the author discusses the role of fire in North American ecosystems and how it is being reintroduced to the landscape. A portion of the article is devoted to local efforts with the Plumas Underburn Cooperative. Residents including Saylor Flett, Jeff Greef, Greg Kinne and Bill Jacks are featured in the photographs.

The article begins with story about Jeff Greef and how he hardened his home and property to protect them from fire. (After evacuating due to the Dixie Fire, he returns home to find that his home has been spared and a congratulatory note from a fire chief that read “All of your hard work paid off.” The magazine included an aerial view of the Greef home and the surrounding charred landscape.

While other areas of Northern California are also included in the article, Plumas County and the Plumas Underburn Cooperative are heavily featured. Here is a snippet from the article:

“It’s late October in the rugged pine forests of Plumas County, and the morning is cool and damp. Mist still hangs in the crown of the trees as half a dozen members of the Plumas Underburn Cooperative, a California PBA, gather to conduct a “pile burn,” a type of prescribed burn. Scattered across the steeply sloped hillside, piles of logs are thoughtfully stacked. In preparation for today’s event, homeowner Saylor Flett thinned out small trees and trimmed the lower tree limbs that would be considered “ladder fuels.” Flett also collected stray, downed branches and logs on his forested property and gathered them into piles.”

The article goes on to describe the rest of the day and shared meal of pizza; homeowners traditionally feed the workers.

To read the article and see all of the photos click here

Resident Bill Jacks is captured by photographer Andria Hautamaki.

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