- Editor: Sophie Kolding
- Author: Susie Kocher
Most people planning home improvement projects take into account how improvements will affect the home’s ability to withstand rain and weathering. In California we should also consider the threat of wildfire when planning home improvement projects this spring
Most homes that burn during wildfires are ignited by flying embers landing on combustible material on or near homes. A wildfire passes by a home quickly, usually in a few minutes, while the exposure to flying embers can last for an hour or more. Therefore, activities homeowners undertake to make their home less ignitable from embers do the most to ensure its survival.
The most important home upgrade homeowners can do to reduce wildfire risk is to replace wood shake roofs with Class A roofs. Single-paned windows should also be replaced with dual-pane windows (with at least one pane being tempered). Combustible siding can also be vulnerable, but replacing it with non-combustible siding is less important if you have done a good job of locating and maintaining vegetation near your home. Replacing combustible decks with noncombustible decking products will also reduce risk.
Even though these upgrades are expensive, they reduce the likelihood that you will experience the cost and trauma of losing a home in a wildfire. If you cannot afford to undertake these projects this year, there are less expensive projects you can take on to reduce wildfire risk. These center on maintaining your home in good condition by replacing worn boards , sealing cracks in locations where embers can enter the home, and protecting vulnerable areas with non-combustible materials and coverings.
Even if you have already upgraded your home to resist fire by installing a new roof, windows, or deck, it is important to maintain those home components in their proper condition so embers cannot gain entrance to the home. Creating defensible space by clearning flammable vegetation and debris is also crucial to reducing your wildfire risk. For more information on the performance of building materials in a wildfire, please see http://firecenter.berkeley.edu/ or www.extension.org/surviving_wildfire. For more on creation of defensible space, contact your local fire agency.
Homeowner installing screens under a deck to reduce the likelihood of ember intrusion
during a wildfire. Photo by Steve Quarles.
Suggested home maintenance projects to reduce wildfire risk
- Plug roof openings: Install end-stops (bird-stops) at the edge of your roof if it has a gap between the roof and the sheathing (as with a clay barrel tile roof).
- Protect roof edges: Install metal angle flashing at the roof edge to protect the roof sheathing and fascia board, especially if there are gutters attached that can hold combustible pine needles. Even a Class A roof cannot protect the wood sheathing under it if the roof edge is unprotected.
- Protect roof eaves: “Box in” your open eaves with sheathing, such as a fiber cement soffit or higher grade plywood.
- Skylights: Particularly on steep or flat roofs, replace plastic skylights with skylights that use tempered glass in the outer pane.
- Maintain siding: Fill gaps in siding and trim materials with a qood quality caulk help keep out embers. Replace warped or degraded siding.
- Protect vents: Inspect the vents into your attic and crawl space. Make sure the screens are in good condition. Replace ¼ inch mesh screen with 1/8 inch mesh screening.
- Maintain decks: Replace deck boards that are less than an inch thick with two inch thick boards. Remove combustible materials from under the deck.
- Protect combustible siding: Install metal flashing between a deck and combustible siding to protect it from accumulated debris that can ignite during ember attack.
- Remove flammable material from under decks: If your deck is made from wood or wood-plastic lumber decking, remove combustibles (firewood, lumber, etc.) from under the deck.
- Replace gates: Replace combustible gates and sections of wooden fences within five feet of the house with noncombustible materials and components.
- Adjust garage doors: Your garage door can be very “leaky” to embers. Since most people store combustibles in their garage, make sure your garage door is well sealed at the edges.
- Editor: Sophie Kolding
- Author: Yana Valachovic
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
University of California Cooperative Extension employees, who coordinate most of the sudden oak death-related research and monitoring in Northern California, got a surprise in the spring of 2010, when samples from a monitoring station near the mouth of Redwood Creek near Orick in Humboldt County tested positive for the pathogen. This meant that trees were infected somewhere in the 200,000-acre watershed – more than 50 miles from the nearest known infestation, and farther north than the pathogen had ever been detected in California.
Federal and state agencies, including the USDA Forest Service, CAL FIRE and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, joined forces with UC Cooperative Extension and quickly mobilized resources to control the pathogen in Redwood Valley and halt its spread to neighboring forests. Local landowners have also played a key role.
Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Humboldt County and forestry expert, explained that she and her agency partners had been preparing for this moment.
“We’ve been closely monitoring the disease for years and anticipating a scenario like Redwood Valley, so we were ready to take action and respond quickly,” Valachovic said.
Figure 1. Yana Valachovic sampling vegetation
The UCCE staff leads an extensive sudden oak death monitoring program on the North Coast, and one of their detection strategies involves "leaf-baiting" in streams. Using this technique, they “bait” Phytophthora ramorum, the non-native pathogen that causes sudden oak death, by placing susceptible leaves in strategic locations in North Coast streams. If the leaf baits become infected with SOD, the scientists know that the pathogen is present in the watershed without having to comb the landscape for symptoms.
After they detected the pathogen in Redwood Creek, UCCE acted quickly to pinpoint the source of the waterborne spores, scouring the watershed for the very inconspicuous symptoms of SOD with the help and permission of public and private landowners. By November 2010, the scientists had narrowed the location to Redwood Valley, where they found dead tanoaks and several other infected host plants.
Given its proximity to extensive public, private and tribal lands, the infestation in Redwood Valley was a serious concern. The disease, which was discovered in the Bay Area in the mid-1990s, is found in 14 coastal counties in California, from Monterey to Humboldt, and has infested 10 percent of the at-risk areas in the state. P. ramorum thrives in the coastal climate, and has killed over 5 million tanoaks and true oaks over the past 15 years. It’s still not clear how the pathogen got to Redwood Valley, but it could threaten the dense tanoak forests of the surrounding area, resulting in widespread tree mortality and increased fire hazard.
Much of the on-the-ground effort has been completed by contractors and CAL FIRE handcrews, who have created 100-meter buffers around infected trees by removing California bay laurel (pepperwood) and tanoak, the two hosts that most readily support P. ramorum spore production and spread. Infected plant material has been trucked offsite and donated to the nearby DG Fairhaven Power Company, piled and burned, or lopped and scattered onsite.
Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the USDA Forest Service and NRCS enabled the swift response in Redwood Valley. UCCE used ARRA funds, also known as federal stimulus funds, to hire four people to work on the project, lending stability to the effort.
Landowner support has been critical to the success of the project, according to Valachovic. More than 20 landowners in the valley have allowed monitoring and treatment activities on their properties, recognizing that their cooperation may keep the disease from spreading to other areas.
Figure 2. Chris Lee (UCCE Staff Research Associate) and David Casey
(NRCS Forester) inspecting a treated area
“We couldn’t just stand back and let the disease roll through the forests that we manage, and the landowners understood that,” said Dan Cohoon, who works for Eureka-based Able Forestry, which manages many of the private forestlands in the watershed.
Brandon LaPorte, manager of Cookson Ranch and one of the key landowner collaborators in Redwood Valley, has supported the project from the beginning. LaPorte explained, “We’ve learned a lot about the disease through this project, and we certainly don’t want it getting worse here on the ranch or spreading beyond the valley.”
The first phase of treatment is currently wrapping up, and UCCE is beginning to monitor project efficacy and watch for spread of the pathogen beyond project boundaries. The Yurok and Hoopa tribes will be paying close attention to this effort, as they are only a ridge away from the infestation.
Ron Reed, a Yurok tribal forester, commented, “Oaks are an important part of our culture and history, and we will do what we can to keep sudden oak death out of our forests.
The Redwood Valley project highlights the value of stream monitoring as a detection tool for SOD, but it also demonstrates the ability of agencies and landowners to collaborate swiftly and effectively to protect the region’s forest resources. Maybe most important – regardless of the future course that sudden oak death takes in the North Coast – is what the project shows about the ability of proactive communities concerned about the health of their landscapes to come together, attract the support of state and national authorities, and work to make things better.
The community collaboration is being honored with the Two Chiefs’ Award. The award, which is given jointly by the NRCS and the Forest Service, highlights projects from across the country each year, recognizing exemplary partners who have worked collaboratively to support conservation and forest stewardship. Valachovic will accept the award on behalf of the federal, state, tribal and private partners involved the project at an event in Davis on Wednesday, May 16.
For more information about sudden oak death disease, visit the California Oak Mortality Task Force website at www.suddenoakdeath.org.
For more ANR news, visit
University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Editor: Sophie Kolding
- Contributor: Max Moritz
Although wildland fires are a natural part of forest ecosystems, they can interefere with the planning of land-management activities and may have an array of anthropogenic factors. The article, Spatial variability in wildfire probability across the western United States from the International Journal of Wildland Fire, uses fire obsertvations to produce detailed estimates of wildfire probability, of both natural and anthropogenic factors. The International Journal of Wildland Fire publishes papers that advance basic and applied research concerning wildland fire. The Journal wishes to attract papers on a broad range of wildland fire issues that may include subjects beyond the range of papers published in recent issues. The Journal has an international perspective, since wildland fire plays a major social, economic and ecological role around the globe. The authors of the article, Spatial variability in wildfire probability across the western United States, include Marc-Andre Parisien, Susan Snetsinger, Jonathan A. Greenberg, Cara R. Nelson, Tania Schoennagel, Solomon Z. Dobrowski and Max Moritz.
Here is the article's abstract, along with figures and their descriptions:
'Despite growing knowledge of fire-environment linkages in the western USA, obtaining reliable estimates of relative wildfire likelihood remains a work in progress. The purpose of this study is to use updated fire observations during a 25-year period and a wide array of environmental variables in a statistical framework to produce high-resolution estimates of wildfire probability. Using the MaxEnt modeling technique, point-source fire observations that were sampled from area burned during the 1984-2008 time period were related to explanatory variables representing ignitions, flammable vegetation (i.e. fuels), climate and topography. Model results were used to produce spatially explicit predictions of wildfire probability. To assess the effect of humans on the spatial patterns of wildfire likelihood, we built an alternative model that excluded all variables having a strong anthropogenic imprint. Results showed that wildfire probability in the western USA is far from uniform, with different areas responding to different environmental drivers. The effect of anthropogenic factors on wildfire probability varied by region but, on the whole, humans appear to inhibit fire activity in the western USA. Our results not only provide what appear to be robust predictions of wildfire likelihood, but also enhance understanding of long-term controls on wildfire activity. In addition, our wildfire probability maps provide better information for strategic planning of land-management activities, especially where fire regime knowledge is sparse.'
Figure 1. The study area showing the 11 western USA states, elevation, road density (computed using a 1000-hacircular window), mean annual precipitation, mean annual temperature and land cover that was generalized from the National Gap Analysis.
Figure 2. Mean predicted wildfire probability (based on 25 model replicates) for the Full model (a); the Non-anthropogenic model (b); the absolute change (c); and the relative change (d) from the Full model to the Non-anthropogenic model, whereby green indicates an increase and blue represents a decrease in wildfire probability as a result of human-influenced variables.
To view the entire article, please visit the website:
- Author: Richard B. Standiford
- Author: Jaime Adler
The Coast Redwood Forests in a Changing California Science Symposium was held June 21-23, 2011 at UC Santa Cruz with just under 300 registrants in attendance. Participants ranged in background from graduate level students to university forestry faculty, land managers, and conservation groups, public agencies, and land trust members. The symposium was strategically held in Santa Cruz, near the Southern end of the redwood region. Designed to present the state of our knowledge about California’s coast redwood forest ecosystems and sustainable management practices, this symposium was built on earlier redwood science symposia held in Arcata, CA in June, 1996 and in Santa Rosa, CA in March, 2004.
Seed funding for the Symposium was from the University of California/California State University competitive grant program. Rick Standiford of UC Berkeley, Doug Piirto of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and John Stuart of Humboldt State Univeristy served as the three co-chairs of the symposium.
Link to Proceedings
The Proceedings were produced as a General Technical Report of the USDA Forest Service It is available on-line as well as a limited number of printed copies from the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station. The entire Proceedings or individual papers can be downloaded by clicking HERE. The full citation for the Proceedings is:
Standiford, Richard B.; Weller, Theodore J.; Piirto, Douglas D.; Stuart, John D, technical coordinators. 2012. Proceedings of coast redwood forests in a changing California: A symposium for scientists and managers. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-238. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 626 p.
Field Tour Information
The first day of the symposium consisted of two simultaneous field tours, one to the North County and one to the South County. The North County tour focused on active redwood timber management on corporate ownerships operating under the unique policies that dictate decision making on the central coast, and Cal-Poly’s forest management and research at its Swanton Pacific Ranch. It also included, a brief tour of the Big Creek Lumber Company sawmill and a visit to areas burned in the more than 7,000 acre Lockheed Fire of 2009. The South County tour traversed the range of redwood forest conditions from the old growth of Henry Cowell State Park and the uncut 120 year old young growth of Nisene Marks State Park to uneven-aged young growth stands established by individual tree selection harvesting on non-industrial forestlands.
Opening remarks started the second day of the symposium and began the academic concurrent sessions. Local historian Sandy Lydon spoke about the special history of the redwoods in the region, recounting stories from his boyhood about roaming through the forests and giving a brief synopsis of the settlement of the area. Steve Sillett, Humboldt State University forestry professor, described his experiences climbing the redwoods and his discoveries in the redwood forest canopy ecosystems, as well as his findings on tree growth from dendrochronology measurements. Ruskin Hartley, Executive Director and Secretary of Save the Redwoods League, called on the audience to set “audacious goals and collaborative actions.” He maintained that nature does not develop boundaries and that in moving forward, we should focus on a shared set of goals and that public and private land should progress simultaneously. Concluding the session, Ron Jarvis, Home Depot’s VP of sustainability talked candidly about the role of environmental sustainability practices and policies as part of the home improvement retailer’s business model. He noted that when he began in the sustainability department he undertook a two year long project to understand where every sliver of wood from over 9,000 products originated to ensure sustainable wood practices.
Over 75 concurrent oral presentations were showcased over two days, pertaining to the topics of: Ecology (15 presentations); Silviculture and Restoration (11 presentations); Watershed and Physical Processes (22 presentations); Wildlife, Fisheries, Aquatic Ecology (10 presentations); Forest Health (10 presentations); Economics and Policy (6 presentations); Monitoring (7 presentations). In addition, almost 40 posters were displayed during the evening reception, ranging in topic from post-fire response, to long-term watershed research, and community forestry models. Held outside on the warm Santa Cruz evening, participants enjoyed a strolling dinner and networking with colleagues, making the reception a highlight of the symposium.
Conclusions and Summary
The symposium concluded with closing remarks about the future of research in the redwood region from John Helms, UC Berkeley and Mike Liquori, Sound Watershed. In addition, a panel including Dan Porter, the Nature Conservancy, Lowell Diller, Green Diamond, and Kevin O’Hara, UC Berkeley discussed the interface of research, management, and conservation. The overall discussion led to the conclusion that academic research and applied research should be made available to the field as a whole as findings progress and that more opportunities for networking and interactions should be made available to the forestry community.
Overall, the symposium fulfilled its purpose to identify key knowledge gaps, bring together multi-disciplinary teams, and help identify future opportunities for collaboration. Participants were pleased with the presenters and research shown. Many noted that a highlight of the symposium was being able to meet and interact with others whose works they had previously cited in their own research. Of the approximately one half of participants who completed the follow-up survey, 100% hoped to see more events like the 2011 Redwood Symposium.
- Author: Susie Kocher
- Author: Kim Ingram
- Editor: Sophie Kolding
The 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment that guides the management of the national forests in the Sierra has been ripe with controversy since its inception. Disagreements over harvesting plan details, the effectiveness of SPLAT fuels treatments and their effects on wildlife and water issues led to the formation of the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP) as a way to address these controversies and learn from the best available science. The US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service and California Resource agencies contracted with the University of California to be an independent, neutral third party to research key management issues, develop a multi-party adaptive management program that builds on new research and to increase public participation in all aspects of the project. UC scientists are working in five areas: Fire & Forest Ecosystem Health, Water Quality & Quantity, Wildlife (CA Spotted Owl and Pacific Fisher), Spatial, and Public Participation. These teams are conducting scientific research in an open and transparent manner to measure physical and natural processes at relevant management scales, all the while integrating competing public interests, identifying conflicting outcomes and building public trust. The overall goal of this seven year project is to provide the Forest Service and resource agencies with quality information derived from deliberate experimentation that can be used to improve future management decisions and reduce conflict.
SNAMP has two study sites, Last Chance in the northern Sierra and Sugar Pine in the southern Sierra. These sites were selected because they represent the major bio-geographical features of the Sierra Nevada. They have mixed conifer forests with suitable control and treatment watersheds and old forest habitat for species at risk. They are also large enough to support fireshed scale research and active planning by local Forest Service districts for fuels management projects. Two to four years of pre-treatment data has been collected by the UC teams prior to the start of fuels reduction treatments (including thinning, mastication and prescribed fire) that began during summer 2011. Treatments are scheduled for completion by late 2012.
Logs being sorted at the Last Chance thinning project near Foresthill, CA, September 2012.
Photo by Shufei Lei
Analysis of pre-treatment data has led to some initial findings from the various UC science teams. The Forest Team collected data on tree size and species, as well as fuel loading in the study area, then modeled how fire behavior would be affected both before and after the treatment. They predict that both treatments will be effective at moderating wildfire behavior. They also analyzed hundreds of tree core samples and compared growth patterns between live and dead trees. Initial evidence suggests that thinning can improve tree growth even under adverse environmental conditions such as drought.
Dr. John Battles, UC Berkeley forest ecologists shows a SNAMP participant how to read a tree ring core.
Photo by Susie Kocher
The fisher team has used radio collars to track the movements and dispersal of over 66 Pacific fishers in the Sugar Pine area. By retrieving fisher carcasses, the team, in conjunction with UC Davis scientists, has identified the top four causes of fisher mortality in the study site: predation from bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes, disease, rodenticide and road kill. They are currently developing measures of the population dynamics for the species, including reproduction and survival as well as locations of fisher source and sink areas in the study area.
The CA Spotted Owl Team has identified 75 owls in 48 territories within the SNAMP study area. Using data from monitoring territory occupancy and reproductive success of the owls, initial findings suggest that the owl population is in an overall decline. The team is conducting a retrospective analysis on the history of land use and vegetation looking at all observable changes in owl habitat due to disturbance to identify potential causes of decline.
With meteorological and hydrological instruments, the Water Team records and collects data on a daily basis. This data is fed into computer models to produce potential trends in stream discharge and sediment loading or snow accumulation and snowmelt rates. Using different parameters, such as a reduction in leaf area index (LAI), the team is modeling effects of fuels treatments on stream flows and evapo-transpiration rates.
UC Merced graduate student Sarah Martin explaining water team field equipment.
Remote sensing of both study areas was done using Lidar (light detecting and ranging). This data has allowed the Spatial Team to produce many two and three dimensional maps and other products for use by the science teams. Examples include bare earth, slope, aspect and elevation maps; canopy cover and LAI maps; as well as providing information incorporated into fire behavior models. The team has developed methods to detect individual trees from a lidar data point cloud and has used this data to characterize habitat structure for the wildlife teams.
Digital elevation model and vegetation layers Visualization of forest structure developed by the SNAMP
developed by the UC Spatial Team Spatial Team using Lidar data
The role of the Public Participation team is to promote SNAMP through strategic facilitation and outreach and to support the progress of adaptive management. The team reaches many diverse participants through meetings, field trips and workshops; presentations to community leaders and groups; submissions to blogs, industry publications and other media outlets; and the SNAMP website. Current work includes papers on perceptions of forest health, social network analysis and lessons learned through outreach.
SNAMP participants in September 2011 on a field trip to see progress in implementation
of the Last Chance Project near Foresthill. Photo by Shufei Lei.
Funding difficulties affected the scope of the project in 2011. However, the majority of funding has been restored and the project will be completed with a few changes to the original scope of work.
Data collection by these teams will continue for a year after the fuels treatments are complete in order to characterize the effects of the treatments on forest health, fire, water, and wildlife. There will be a final report to agency partners and the public in 2014. For more information, please see the SNAMP website http://snamp.cnr.berkeley.edu/.