El Dorado County Fire Safe Council

The mission of EI Dorado County Fire Safe Council is to protect the people of EI Dorado County and their property from the effects of catastrophic wildfire through education, cooperation, innovation and action.

Wrights Lake and Dark Lake Fire Safe Council

Report for 2023 / 2024

About Us- Development of Wildfire Mitigation Strategy for Wrights and Dark Lakes

As the Caldor Fire burned within the northern Sierra in the Summer of 2021, narrowly missing Wrights and Dark Lakes, several cabin owners formed a working group to develop a strategy to protect both lakes from the increased wildfire threat that we all face. They formulated a plan with two objectives:

  1. Help cabin owners to create defensible space on their permitted lots so that they can survive a ground-moving fire.
  2. Plan and implement a fuel reduction project to reduce the heavy fuel load that has accumulated around Wrights and Dark Lakes over the past 100 years.

They determined that the most effective way to achieve their objectives was to form a local Fire Safe Council.

Following is a summary of progress to date and future goals:

Formation of Wrights Lake and Dark Lake Fire Safe Council

The Wrights Lake and Dark Lake Fire Safe Council (WLDLFSC) was approved and formed in April 2022 under the umbrella of the El Dorado County Fire Safe Council (EDCFSC). Its goal is to “protect the people of Wrights and Dark Lakes and their property from the effects of catastrophic wildfire through education, cooperation, innovation and action.”  The WLDLFSC is one of 31 Associate Fire Safe Councils in the County and it is the only Fire Safe Council that is 100% on national forest land.  The WLDLFSC has formed positive working relationships with the U.S. Forest Service and the El Dorado County Resource Conservation District, who have been very supportive and helpful. Working together these parties have been able to make significant progress toward achieving the WLDLFSC’s objectives within a short period of time. 

Specification for Fuels Reduction on Cabin Lots approved by USFS

The WLDLFSC prepared a Fuels Reduction Specification for cabin lots that was approved by the USFS District Recreation Officer. It includes limbing trees 8’-10’ in height, pruning branches 10’ from structures, removing and/or thinning ladder trees up to 6” in diameter, and removing other surface ladder fuels. The purpose of this specification is to provide a clear set of approved procedures for cabin owners to follow on their permitted lots without having to request special meetings or approvals from the USFS. 

“Call to Action” to Clean up Cabin Lots

The Wrights Lake Summer Home Association’s (WLSHA’s) President issued a “Call to Action” in the Spring of 2022 for members to reduce the fuel on their lots and to have the entire tract ready for fire by fall.  The response by members was very positive with an estimated 65% participation. Some owners performed the work themselves and others hired outside vendors.  The momentum created by this work has continued as members continue to improve the defensible space on their lots each year. 

Annual Education and Training Events on Fuel Reduction, Defensible Space, Cabin Hardening and Emergency Communication

The WLDLFSC has conducted education and training events each year via Zoom and in person. Topics have included Fuel Reduction, Defensible Space, Cabin Hardening, Evacuation and Emergency Communication.  Speakers have included Ben Gotts, USFS Fire Prevention Technician, Captain Luke Shepard, Prevention Specialist with El Dorado County Fire, and Alice Cantelow, Director of Education with the El Dorado County Fire Safe Council. Members of other cabin tracts have been invited to these events which have been well attended.   

Hands-on Training for Defensible Space Practices

In June of 2022 several WLDLFSC members did a hands-on demonstration on creating defensible space, using the Wrights Lake Caretaker cabin as an example. It included limbing trees, removing ladder trees and fuels, raking a perimeter around the cabin, and stacking branches for chipping or transporting to a burn pile. A USFS fire crew attended and a number of owners requested visits from the USFS Fire Prevention Technician to receive specific defensible space suggestions. 

Annual Free Chipping Program

The WLDLFSC participates in the El Dorado County FSC’s Chipping Program which provides a free chipping service to its members. The response by members has been enthusiastic and they have spent hundreds of hours removing vegetation and stacking it at the edge of their lots for chipping. The WLDLFSC held three chipping days in 2022 and 2023 with over 30 cabins participating. Neighbors have gotten together and shared resources and tools. Some have combined tree removal work on their respective lots with a single vendor, achieving economies of scale. Additional chipping days are scheduled for the Summer of 2024.

Designation of Approved Burn Piles  

The USFS has designated three burn piles away from the lakes for owners who prefer to transport their vegetation off site. A significant amount of vegetation has been transported to these sites.

Development and Current Status of the Wrights Lake Forest Health and Hazardous Fuel Reduction Project

In the Summer of 2022 the WLDLFSC partnered with the El Dorado County Resource Conservation District (RCD) who developed a 500 acre fuel reduction project around Wrights and Dark Lakes. The RCD submitted an application to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) for a $380K grant to initiate this project.  The SNC, which prefers larger projects, did not approve this project; however that did not slow progress, and, in fact, gave it new dimension.  

In the Fall of 2022 the USFS brought the Wrights Lake Fuel Reduction project in-house.  They tripled the size to 1,714 acres by extending the boundaries down to the Ice House Tie Road and Wilson’s Meadow. This creates a larger buffer zone to defend Wrights and Dark Lakes against a wildfire, which would most likely come from the southwest. They initiated a NEPA environmental review, which takes about a year, and 100% of the public comments received were positive. The review has been extended by several months to address additional drainage issues; approvals are expected by Spring of 2024.

Here is a link to the Wrights Lake Fuel Reduction Project on the Eldorado National Forest website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=63479

As of Spring 2024 this project is shovel ready and is expected to cost between $6-$7 million. The USFS is in discussions with several nonprofits who fund these projects and they plan to apply for a grant in the Spring of 2024. The WLDLFSC has offered its support in the grant writing process. Work would likely begin in 2025, with a projected 3-5 year completion term.   

The Wrights Lake Fuel Reduction Project will provide economic and environmental protection to water users in the Crystal Basin and beyond, since the lakes and streams within its boundaries are part of the headwaters of the South Fork of the American River. These waterways provide clean and pure water that is essential for SMUD’s hydroelectric facilities and for commercial, residential and agricultural water customers in El Dorado County and Sacramento.   

This project will also benefit a wide range of recreational users including campers in three campgrounds (one of which is equestrian); the owners of 74 cabins holding special use permits; day-users who use the lakes for hiking, biking, fishing, boating and picnicking; equestrian activities; hikers and backpackers who access the Desolation Wilderness; and off-road vehicle owners who use the Barrett Lake Jeep Trail. 

The WLDLFSC is fortunate to have a strong network of organizations who support the Wrights Lake Fuel Reduction Project. They include the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) Pacific District Ranger, the ENF Forest Supervisor, the El Dorado County Resource Conservation District, the El Dorado County Fire Safe Council, SMUD, the Northern Sierra Summer Homeowners Assn, the National Forest Homeowners Assn and the Washington office of the Forest Service. This project is an example of a successful public-private partnership where private owners are working with public agencies to plan and implement best practices in forest management.

2024 GOALS

Support the USFS in its Grant Application for the Wrights Lake Forest Health and Hazardous Fuel Reduction Project

The WLDLFSC’s top priority in 2024 will be to offer its help and support to the USFS to complete its NEPA study and to apply for grant funding for the Wrights Lake Fuel Reduction Project, which has a budget of $6-$7 million. 

Offer Education and Training to Help Owners Create Defensible Space and Fire Harden Cabins

In 2024 the WLDLFSC will continue to offer education, training and tools for owners who want to continue to improve the defensible space on their lots and to harden their cabins against fire. It will offer speakers on these topics and a hands-on demonstration on fire hardening techniques and materials.

Chipping Program

The WLDLFSC will offer free chipping days again in the summer of 2024 to help owners continue to reduce the fuel load in and around their lots.

GMRS Radio Network, Fire Tracking Apps and RAVE Emergency Alert Notification

The WLDLFSC will continue to recommend 5-watt GMRS radios to its membership to help expand an emergency communications network. It also recommends fire tracking apps including CalFire and Watch Duty.  It will continue to encourage its members to sign up for El Dorado County’s RAVE (Formerly Code Red) Emergency Alert System.

Sharing Resources with Other Cabin Tracts    

The WLDLFSC considers everything it does to be replicable and it has offered its materials and project specifications to the other cabin tracts in the El Dorado National Forest. It will continue to invite them to its education and training events and encourage them to implement their own fuel reduction projects.


Located in the heart of the northern Sierra Nevada at 6,950 feet, Wrights and Dark Lakes lie beneath the glacially-carved Crystal Range. The recreation area provides western access to the Desolation Wilderness, a pristine alpine ecosystem that serves two major urban areas with rare back-country opportunities.

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy 65 camp sites, 15 equestrian camp sites, day-use picnic areas and an array of recreational uses including hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming, boating, fishing, and picnicking. In addition there are 74 cabins, some with “Historic” designation, located at Wrights and Dark Lakes that are under USFS special use permits and are between 60 and 100 years old. 

The Wrights and Dark Lake Fuel Reduction Project is designed to benefit all of the recreational users of Wrights and Dark Lakes and the Desolation Wilderness. 

For more information please contact Doug Kniveton, knivetond@gmail.com, or John Lambert, Lam325bert@gmail.com, of the Wrights Lake and Dark Lake Fire Safe Council.