Nine months before Big Basin Redwood State Park suffered its worst fire in recorded history, one of the park’s environmental scientists gave a podcast interview revealing that a prescribed burn had not taken place within the park in three years.
“Does that raise your anxiety at all about the potential for something catastrophic?” asks Peter Jordan, a docent who created the podcast “What the Docents Know” to give the public a deeper understanding of Big Basin.
Sixteen uncomfortable seconds pass — an eternity in radio — during which Halbert can be heard sighing and swallowing. According to Jordan, who was with Halbert in her office, the scientist was in tears.
She finally composes herself and says she’s thinking about Paradise, the city that burned to the ground during the Camp Fire in 2018. “Given the right conditions, we’re poised to have catastrophic wildfires all over California,” she says. “So what’s my anxiety level like? I think we’ve been really lucky to avoid something very extreme here in the Santa Cruz Mountains.”