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  • Brian Nguyen / bnguyen@sacbee.com

    Brian Castelluccio, Roseville's open-space manager, points out fire damage in Maidu Park. One benefit of the blaze was that it wiped away nonnative plants like star thistle.

  • Brian Nguyen / bnguyen@sacbee.com

    Clayne Curtis waters saplings planted in Roseville's Maidu Park as part of an oak restoration project. A June 21 fire – thought to be arson – damaged many of the 3,000 saplings, and officials are waiting to see how many survived.

  • Charred egg shells of wild birds remain on the ground.

Roseville officials hopeful many trees survived Maidu Regional Park arson

Published: Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 - 10:57 am

Roseville officials are in wait-and-see mode after a late June fire – believed to be arson – charred nearly one-third of the 98 acres of wooded open space at Maidu Regional Park.

The fire also damaged many of the approximately 3,000 saplings that were planted in the park as part of a native oak restoration project.

Touring the fire-damaged area this week, Brian Castelluccio, the city's open-space manager, struck an upbeat tone.

"It's an awful thing, but we can take advantage of it, if we react," Castelluccio said.

The June 21 fire, whipped up by strong winds, also damaged four homes. Authorities have not released any information about a search for suspects.

More than a month after the fire, the landscape remains charred.

As many as one-quarter of the scorched saplings, which were planted three years ago, already are showing some signs of life, either green shoots near the base or green leaves near the top. Green leaves at the top are a far better indication the tree will survive, Castelluccio said.

He said the early estimation was that a quarter of the new trees will die.

While there have been many offers to help with replanting the area, Castelluccio said the best thing to do now is to wait and see what the fall and spring bring.

The fire also had provided some immediate benefits. It wiped away nonnative plants, such as star thistle and blackberry bushes, near the creek. And it cleared away the thick brush that can create hiding spots and public nuisances near water-soaked drainage swells that feed larger creeks.

Historically, fire was a natural part of the ecosystem.

Rick Adams, president of the American Indian Hutu Anape Cultural Foundation, said he feels for the people whose homes were damaged but said the fire could be good for the environment.

"It opens up a lot of possibilities. Nothing purifies the land better than fire," Adams said.

Fire allows natural flowers and plants to thrive by removing larger brush that competes for resources, he said, and can reduce the overabundance of insects and lower the danger of a future fire.

"What is going to happen now, the earth will have a chance to rejuvenate itself," Adams said. "All-in-all, it's going to be a benefit to the area."

The sapling oaks, planted with developer money, were on the final summer of a three-year incubation process by the city. The plan was to protect and water the trees, with decreasing frequency, for three years, Castelluccio said. While planting acorns can produce healthy oaks, nurturing and watering saplings produces a higher survival rate.

Castelluccio said only one in five of the trees needs to become a mature oak for the restoration project to be considered a success.

Because most of the city's temporary irrigation system was melted by the fire, city workers are watering the trees by hand through the end of the summer.

Call The Bee's Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @newsfletch.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ed Fletcher



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