New Aerial Photos of the Rim Fire

Google Maps now has updated photos that include the Rim Fire. Now, we can explore the whole of the burned areas to see all of the damages and realities of last year’s epic firestorm.



Here is where the fire started, ignited by an escaped illegal campfire. The bottom of this deep canyon has to be the worst place for a fire to start. It’s no wonder that crews stayed safe by backing off.,-120.0467671,900m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en


While there has been talk about the forests within Yosemite National Park, a public assessment has been impossible, in the National Forest, due to closures. Here is an example of the plantations I worked on, back in 2000, completed just a few years ago. What it looks like to me is that the 40 year old brushfields caused most of the mortality within the plantations. A wider look shows some plantations didn’t survive, burning moderately. When you give a wildfire a running start, nothing can stand in the way of it.,-119.9503067,1796m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en


There is also a remarkable view of Sierra Pacific Industries’ partly-finished salvage logging. Zoom into this view and take a look at their latest work, including feller-bunchers. Comments?,-119.976156,3594m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en


  1. The Clavey River has long been cherished by preservationists and there were big chunks of owl and goshawk nesting habitat “protected” from logging, in the past. Yes, it was the right thing to do but, again, “recovery” plans seem to ignore catastrophic wildfires. This view of the Clavey River shows just how hot the fuels-choked forest burned.,-120.0234626,449m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

    Some portions of this canyon are within cable and helicopter salvage units. The wildlife areas still retain their “protections” but, that is merely dooming the river to catastrophic re-burn. Remember, in some parts of the area, tree rings show up to 13 wildfires in the last 100 years.

    • LarryH

      I need some education here.
      —> I can certainly see why “The Clavey River has long been cherished by preservationists” and would change your wording to IS CHERISHED – At the scale and overhead view that it opens on, it appears to be a magnificent stand of trees indeed. BUT it is an overly dense stand of magnificent trees on steep slopes all primed to create another ashtray if a fire crowned. For the most part, I don’t see much sign of ladder fuels, I do see a few clumps of three or four dead standing trees and some white stems on the ground but the only thing that alarms me is the stand density unless the dead standing trees are recent beetle kill.
      —> Again, at the opening view, I can’t see “how hot the fuels-choked forest burned”

      • This makes me think that you are still seeing the old photos. Maybe Google hasn’t uploaded to servers in your area, yet. In the view I see, it’s hard to find even one green tree. About the only old growth left on the Groveland RD was in the Clavey River corridor. I think it is a “Wild and Scenic River”, along with all those other wildlife “protections”.

    • LarryH

      Re: “A bird’s-eye view of private salvage logging shows yet another reason why wildfires are not “natural and beneficial”, when it burns on to private lands.”
      —> I presume that you are speaking to two things here:
      ——-> Unregenerated areas where the fire was too hot
      ——-> Unregenerated/poor growth areas where the soil is too thin as evidenced by the rock showing.

      Re: “Yes, it IS important to show that this is how private industry does their salvage, and is not anywhere close to how the Feds salvage. Many eco-groups don’t want you to know the difference.”
      —> Can you explain the difference? I am just not as familiar with the local as I need to be to understand what you are saying.

      • Well, for one, the Forest Service leaves both individual trees within acres and scatters clumps of snags in others, as well as leaving out burned but low volume areas ( after snag requirements are fulfilled, there isn’t enough left to cut). On private industrial forest lands, like SPI’s, they do “aggressive” salvage logging, taking every lucrative stick. And hey, we all know that fires started on Forest Service lands rarely stay within the boundaries. I’m just pointing out the fact that there are big impacts on private lands that eco’s don’t account for. Those are some of the realities that the eco’s don’t want to talk about when discussing the “value” of high-intensity firestorms.

  2. LarryH

    I must be missing something, all of your links except the very 1st one in the opening post show green stands with no sign of fire or logging. Even the black dots are just shadows of the trees which appear to be fairly health by their needle color.

    I guess that all but the first photo are after photos and it appears to be many years after the fire.

    • Hmmmm, my views show some green trees but the orange needles are very visible throughout the stands. Did you try zooming in, to look closer? The third one should show many clearcuts and bare ground. I’d expect their lands to be planted and herbicided within a year from now. The Rim Fire was just last year, and these photos are brand new, just this week, it seems.

  3. I took screen shots from the Google Maps links, for those who maybe aren’t able to see the new images on their server. The first one is self-explanatory. The second picture is an example of the “protected” Clavey River area, with old growth mortality. The third picture is of the plantations I worked on, for a thinning project. You can see the old “preserved” brushfields that burned at high intensity. The fourth one is a wider view of the main block of SPI land, partially salvaged. The fifth one is a bonus photo. I included it because it has an eerie beauty, almost like a painting. And a sad one, at that. You can click on each picture to see more.

    Rim-Fire-aerial5 Rim-Fire-aerial4 Rim-Fire-aerial3 Rim-Fire-aerial2 Rim-Fire-aerial1


      • The pictures you saw should correspond with the same images I offered here. You should be able to see before and after views of the same piece of land. In reading the (failed) complaints from Chad Hanson on other salvage projects, those were just “test runs” for the “Big Kahuna” of the Rim Fire. There is also no doubt that he will try to rush the lawsuit to his friends at the Ninth Circuit Court. THIS is exactly why the Forest Service needs to stall while in District Court, allowing fallers to get the trees cut. Certainly, there are people in the Forest Service skilled in public speaking that could present ALL of the Forest Service’s science, as well as tying up the plaintiffs lawyer, for as many days as it takes to present the defendants case. Ditto for the Appeals Court. Gotta educate those Judges, who appear to side with liberal politics, instead of site specific science.

        • These cases (and including preliminary injunctions and appeals) are decided by motions and briefs read by judges. There may sometimes be oral arguments (typically not in district court, or for injunctions) but regardless it’s just the attorneys with the judge, and they’re lucky to get as much as a half hour each. There are almost never expert (or otherwise) witnesses allowed, so USFS employees and public speaking don’t come into play at all, nor is there any actual presentation of the case in a courtroom (beyond the occasional half hour oral arguments mentioned above). The briefing schedule gets pretty much set in stone, with very little opportunity to “stall” (the judges themselves may drag their feet, but that’s another issue). Judges and their political views (though I would probably disagree with your characterization, and also suggest that the importance of their political views is exaggerated), as well as judges’ understanding of science (or lack thereof, and its significance), are a whole ‘nother ballgame…

          • Well, then an option would be to make the documents that the Judges read as long and technical as possible, using as much complicated verbiage as possible, encouraging the Judges to ask many questions. Of course, the Appeals Court has ruled in the past that plans and concepts should be able to be understood by the ignorant masses, too. That really doesn’t matter much, as the goal is just to delay the eventual decision by the Appeals Court for as long as possible. If the timber industry had it together, they could gather an army of fallers, to get the trees on the ground, making some issues “moot”. The Forest Service would need to have its own stuff together, to be ready for the inevitable injunction from the Appeals Court. The Court always sides with Hanson, without knowing even the biology of the birds, now including spotted owls that Hanson says uses the snag habitat. Seriously, the owls also use the salvaged habitats, too! Happily! I see it as a good sign that he lost in District Court. That means that his “improvements” to his complaints have been ineffective. Now, we’ll see how long he will wait to appeal, and if he is “Judge shopping”.

  4. After scanning over the aerial views, it is clear to anyone who looks that the burn intensity and the sheer damages to old growth forests, within Yosemite National Park, is far more destructive than the portion on the Stanislaus National Forest. This view show a portion of the old growth mortality and if you zoom out, you can see the huge expanse of brand new blackbacked woodpecker habitat. Surely, that is enough for each and every BBW within the whole of California, without having to set aside ANY land for it, outside of the Park.,-119.7668581,1799m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

    There is no need to pretend that every acre within the Rim Fire should go to supporting a mere 6 years of BBW habitat. Spotted owls and goshawks won’t lose ANY foraging habitat, regardless of post-fire treatments. Additionally, owls and goshawks do not use burned areas for nesting. Nesting habitat is all about canopy closure, and moderate to high intensity burns make existing nesting habitat unusable, despite the claims of “occupancy”.

    The well-being of owls and goshawks is intimately tied to their nesting habitats. When it is burned, it is gone…… for a very, VERY long time. A lack of post-fire fuels reductions can push that recovery time into centuries, and even that is a conservative estimate, using site-specific examples. In many parts of the Rim Fire, 40 years of “hands-off recovery” has gone up in smoke and some people want to try that “experiment” all over again.

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