"Bearing" Wildfire devastation brings opportunity for improvement

TRINITY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - It's been more than a month since the largest wildfire in East Texas history broke out on the Polk and Trinity County line.

A crew is still there battling hotspots inside the fire.

The flames have died down, the fire is contained, but the work isn't over yet.

"By and large, it killed every stick of timber in the fire. It was so hot and so adverse. It's going to take a long time to recover," says Kent Evans, with the National Forest & Grasslands in Texas.

KTRE took a trip into the Davy Crockett National Forest which is on the edge of the 22 thousand-acre bearing wildfire in Trinity County.

"All but 600 acres of that was private land. With that it killed an awful lot of private pine plantations. Very valuable timber. It was a very large economic loss," says Evans.

That 600 acres was national forest land, but with the devastation comes an opportunity for improvement.

"We've got a lot of challenges here to try to restore a forest here and a very productive forest. We also have a great opportunity and that is to restore the native long-leaf pine ecosystem," says Ike McWhorter, a fire ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

Timber has already been marked and foresters say once it's cleared out they'll begin planting longleaf pines.

The longleaf pines are a pine species that are less susceptible to fire.

Which is a good thing since controlled burns will be necessary in the future to prevent another wildfire from threatening East Texans.

"It may be a short-term inconvenience, but in the long-run, their property, their houses are going to be safer in the future," says Chet Dieringer, assistant fire manager officer on Davy Crockett National Forest.

With the prescribed burn, all of the vegetation would not be completely gone like it is now, but vegetation along with the water will return, it will just take some time.

Despite the massive blaze the ground is still ripe for another burn.

For now foresters are working to give private landowners an incentive to replant with the more fire-resistant longleaf pines.

The Texas Forest Service is also encouraging residents to make sure they clear the space around their home to allow firefighters to better protect their home.

If you're interested in ways to replant longleaf pines on your fire-damaged property, the Texas Forest Service will have a natural resources recovery workshop. The meeting is this Friday night from 6-9 at the Apple Springs School off Farm Road 2501.

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