On CZU Lightning Fire anniversary, burned-out Big Basin park shows growth

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency visited Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Tuesday afternoon. The majority of the park burned in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire one year ago this week.

Newsom toured the park to see its progress after last year’s fire and to highlight the larger implications of climate change.

At the entrance of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, what would have been a lush canopy is blackened trees and the sprouting of redwoods.

"Of all the fires, all the complex fires last year 4.2 million acres burned," said Newsom "We had a historic wildfire season. This one was the biggest gut punch."

Newsom along with U.S. Environmental Administrator Michael Regan toured Big Basin on Tuesday. One year ago, 97% of this 18,000 acre park burned in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire.

Only the chimney remains where the historic lodge once stood and the visitor’s center is no more. 300-foot trees are tagged for possible removal.

Fast forward to today, yet another drought year and the state is battling 10 large wildfires including the Dixie Fire.

"We have the largest civilian firefighting force in the world in the state of California but it’s still not enough," said Newsom.

The majority of the forest fires in the state is on federal land.

"When we look at the IPCC report just came out it told us it's a little bit more of a stark situation than we even thought," said Regan. "You don’t have to read a report you can believe your own eyes."

Both said Big Basin is evidence of the impacts of climate change.

"Climate change is real," said Newsom. "If you don’t believe it, come out here to the state of California. As I said these smash-mouth realities, if you don’t believe in science you have to believe your own eyes, walk around this quote unquote asbestos forest."

Besides working with federal partners, Newsom said the state has brought in 1,400 new firefighters and is investing more in forest fire management and technology.

"We have more initial attack strategies, more pre-positioned assets, we are doing more with weather monitoring," said Newsom.

 As the state struggles with Mother Nature’s fury, a testament to her force are 1,500-year-old trees still surviving.

During his visit, Newsom touched on the drought. He said, while the state has instituted a voluntary 15% call in water reduction, he may have more to say on mandatory reductions as water season begins in October.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at azenith.smith@fox.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.