Kids growing trees lost to Rim Fire

Mariposa County continues to deal with the aftermath of its recent wildfires, and now dozens of students are bringing new life to the damaged areas.
April 16, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mariposa County continues to deal with the aftermath of its recent wildfires, and now dozens of students are bringing new life to the damaged areas.

Two major wildfires tore through parts of Mariposa County last summer. The massive Rim Fire charred more than 250,000 acres on the western edge of Yosemite National Park in August. And just months earlier, the Carstens Fire burned more than 1,700 acres, forcing nearly 2,000 people to evacuate. Including teacher Chivonne Wilde and several of her 7th and 8th students at Sierra Foothill Charter School in Catheys Valley.

Wilde said, "Our whole house was covered in smoke, our whole area was just a thick fog of smoke, and we could watch the fire happen from our back deck, and to see that it was that close is a little disheartening."

When the smoke cleared, countless trees had burned to the ground. But now the blackened landscape has inspired the students and staff to grow thousands of new Ponderosa Pines to replace what was lost.

The kids are involved in every step of the process.

7th grade student Trinity Owens said, "I get excited when more are growing than last time because over there when we counted some of the crates, there were like four in one crate, and there's 10 there now."

Service Learning Coordinator Barbara Milazzo says the state can no longer afford its own nurseries, so it gave the school 5,000 seeds collected in the fire areas -- before the trees burned.

Milazzo explained, "These seedlings we're growing are the babies of those trees, and they're being kept separate in the nursery and tracked so we make sure the genetic trees go back to the proper genetic area."

Once the saplings are big enough, those with red tags will be given to the forest service to plant in the Rim Fire area -- and the students will take a field trip this fall to plant those with blue tags in the Carsten Fire zone. They're also using a $5,000.00 PG&E grant to build a rain water harvesting unit and solar powered pump.

Milazzo added, "So we're going to be using the sun and the rain to regenerate the forest."

The students and staff say it feels great to be giving back to their own community while learning valuable knowledge and skills at the same time.

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Adopt A Tree Program
Carstens Fire and Rim Fire Reforestation Effort
Contact: Chivonne Wilde at 559-676-9926
Or at: chivonne@sierrafoothillcharterschool.org


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