EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Earlier this year, the August Complex fire burned about 97% of Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Now, scientists are wondering whether the park will ever recover. LA Times investigative environmental reporter Susanne Rust joined us with the story.

What You Need To Know

  • The Complex fire burned about 97% of Big Basin Redwoods State Park

  • Redwoods State Park, located near Santa Cruz and San Jose, and was designated a park in 1902

  • While many of the trees burned, there is hope that they will recover — as only some died

  • The park is still closed to visitors, and there are no immediate plans for reopening

Redwoods State Park, located near Santa Cruz and San Jose, was designated a park in 1902.

"The park has some of the oldest coastal redwoods in the State," said Rust. "These are trees that are 2,000 to 2,500 years old. It is an incredible place and has somewhere between 1,700 to 3,000 acres of these trees."

Now, if you pass by the park, it still smells like a campfire.

"You look at these trees, and they are black," Rust said. "They look like a giant put them over a campfire. But there are signs of life, so I had a forester point me upwards and look up the whole stem of the tree, and little green buds are coming off. I think I heard from CalTrans, who’s also looking at the trees, that most of them did survive. They see these signs of life. Unfortunately, a few did die, but they are hoping to recover these trees. The big question now is what is that recovery going to look like?"

In 1904, a similar fire burned through the park, and there was little hope that it would recover.

"There was a big headline in the Santa Cruz Evening Standard — the Santa Cruz paper back then — which said that the forest looked like it was destroyed, and that it was never going to come back," said Rust. "But it did recover. Redwoods are fire-resistant and fire-resilient, so there is a lot of hope."

Park-goers are wondering when the park will reopen again.

"I spoke with Park Rangers, and they’re unclear about when they can reopen," said Rust. "There are many concerns. So many of the trees were damaged — not just the redwoods, but the Douglas fir. So if you drive along Highway 236, there are dead trees everywhere. They have to get rid of all of those, and they have to make sure the paths and trails are clear for people as well. And everyone is anticipating rain, and once it comes with nothing holding the mud and dirt down, I think they’re worried about mudslides as well."