The Impact of the 2018 Carr Fire
WES closed in 2018 as a result of the Carr Fire. The fire began on July 23rd and was not contained until August 30, 2018. It was one of the most destructive in California history. The fire burned 230,000 acres, including 97% of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, where WES is located. The fire burned into West Redding, prompting the evacuation of approximately 36,000 people. Lives were lost, entire neighborhoods and small communities were leveled. The economic damages to the area were estimated at $1.6 billion (2018 USD).
Although a majority of WES remained untouched by the fire, 7 cabins burned and other buildings were damaged. Damage to utilities and cabins required school closure. Watersheds above the school were burned and damaged, creating safety concerns in an area that has experienced flooding in the past. The damage to our wildlands, our community and economy was significant and traumatizing. The closure of WES as an educational and healing source became another loss for the community.
Learn About Debris Flow Hazards at WES Camp
Steps Toward the Future
The fire-damaged watershed above WES has a history of debris flows and flooding. With this threat elevated by fire damage, a geomorphic hazard study of the watershed and WES was completed by the National Park Service in spring 2020. It was determined that buildings would need to be moved to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Why rebuild instead of rehabilitating? The school site was developed as a summer camp in the 1950s. Buildings are aging and the site presents challenges to safety, student health needs, food service, and operational efficiency. ADA site accommodations are weak and staff housing is inadequate. Rather than undertake a piecemeal remodel, the vision is to rebuild a modern campus that will serve students for the next 100 years
Preliminary Building Plans
In September 2020 a preliminary rebuilding plan for an entirely new school site was developed by Domokur Architects. Although the rustic feel of the campus will be retained, the campus layout will change. The dining hall and health room will be relocated. New cabins for students, 3 washrooms, and staff housing will be added. The office and visiting teachers’ house will be moved to the camp entrance as an added security layer. The site will be ADA compliant and fire-resistant materials will be used.
The preliminary plans may be revised but can be viewed here and in detail.
WES Community and WES Forever
Founded in 2012, WES Community is a non-profit organization 501 (c)(3) that supports the outdoor education and science mission of WES. As a result of the Carr Fire and resulting school closure, WES Community now serves as the fundraising partner for the rebuild of WES.
WES Forever is a work team focused on restoring WES because of their common goals in outdoor and science education. The partner organizations are Shasta County Office of Education, National Park Service at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, WES Community, and Friends of Whiskeytown.
On Thursday, July 15, 2021, WES Community Board Member Kathy Hill was a guest speaker at the Redding Rotary. On hand to answer questions were representatives from both Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Superintendent Josh Hoines, and from Shasta County Office of...
On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, members of East Redding Rotary held their May meeting outdoors at Whiskeytown Environmental School (WES). While enjoying their sack lunches, they listened to a half-hour presentation from the WES Forever Team about the damages caused by the...
Thank you so much for letting me come to the wonderful Whiskeytown Environmental school itself. I had so much fun hiking, learning, and being there at WES camp. I will never forget my once-in-a-lifetime experience. One day I hope to see Whiskeytown Enviormental [sic] School and my naturalist, Antalope [sic] Andy, again.