The managers of Deer Creek Hills, the open space preserve north of Rancho Murieta, on Thursday delivered a final accounting of the impact of two recent fires: More than 1,100 acres of the preserve burned. The south stretch of the Deer Creek Hills property is being closed for the remainder of the 2017 season, and the fires have impacted the organization’s 2017 budget.
“It looks like a wasteland,” said Fred Tracy, stewardship manager of the Sacramento Valley Conservancy, in a statement from the organization.
The first fire began July 26 just north of Rancho Murieta and burned east, through the south side of Deer Creek Hills, before being brought under control two days later. Two men have been charged with starting that fire, which burned 1,286 acres. On July 30, another fire erupted in nearby El Dorado County and burned 236 acres.
In all, 1,522 acres burned. Deer Creek Hills lost 1,156 acres of that total – 218 acres of oak woodland and 938 acres of grassland, conservancy officials said.
While the fires were primarily grass fires and didn’t burn high into the tree canopy, the conservancy said, the closure of the south part of the preserve will result in the loss of grazing revenue. The 4,500-acre preserve is a working cattle ranch.
It has been a rough year for conservancy finances. Its Elkhorn Basin Ranch, in West Sacramento, was flooded last winter, damaging its walnut crop. Between the flooding and fires, the conservancy faces a total $200,000 shortfall in its estimated agricultural revenues, officials said.
The conservancy anticipates the fire damage will not drastically impact hiking activities, which resume in October. But the group will need help rehabilitating fire breaks, restoring trails and trail markers, and repairing over five miles of damaged fencing and signs. It’s asking the community for donations.
Volunteers wishing to help can join a volunteer day scheduled for Oct. 7.
Donations can be made to the Deer Creek Hills South Fire Recovery Fund at sacramentovalleyconservancy.org. Click the "Donate now" button.