Swanton Pacific Ranch Fire Recovery
This page includes updates on CZU Lightning Complex Fire recovery on the Ranch. We are hopeful that some operations will be resumed next winter and spring. The rebuilding will be accomplished through a combination of university resources - including insurance reimbursement - and private donations.
It’s hard to believe the CZU Lightning Fire Complex hit Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch just over a month ago. We still find ourselves shocked at the losses – the homes especially, but also our teaching spaces, our favorite trails, and tools and equipment that we took for granted. Yet our team, like the land we steward, is resilient and we are making fast progress toward recovery. Perennial grasses have already resprouted with luxuriant six-inch blades, shrubs and trees are quickly growing shoots from the base of their charred trunks.
Before the fire, daily ranch life was already on a different rhythm because of COVID-19. Field trips were limited, events canceled, and we were missing the smiling faces of students. Yet we learned how to stay connected from afar. Professors transitioned to including the ranch’s forests, creeks, and rangelands in classes virtually. Now, they need new visuals and stories: more work, more opportunity! Forestry classes need photos of charred redwood stands with ashy understories and we will learn together from our emerging salvage forestry plans led by Nadia Hamey, our long-term forester-advisor. Our rangeland management classes can “huddle” around the screen with us as we create new fence lines and think about reintroduction of evacuated livestock (and how to use ruminants to reduce resprouting brush).
Meanwhile, our staff are slowly returning to the ranch as power and internet are restored. Associate Director Mark Swisher (Animal Science, ‘03), who joined us last year, is supervising our teams to inventory losses, create temporary staff housing, and plan for the next steps of engagement in teaching and research. We are very thankful for the outpouring of support from our Swanton Pacific Ranch and Cal Poly communities.
Grey Hayes, Education and Research Coordinator
Cortney Newby (Agricultural Science, ‘03), Administrative Support