- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
One focus of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is forestry, and a host of its researchers study the impacts of fire and fire suppression in California wildlands. This expertise is valued by the public and the news media in times when wildfires strike.
The 2017 fire season has been the most severe on record, due to a combustible combination of drought, rains, and especially, wind. “What really makes big years in terms of acres burned is essentially how many really windy days we have,” UCCE forestry specialist Bill Stewart told KPCC. Last year's wet winter, which led to increased vegetation, and this year's record-breaking heat waves aren't as indicative of fire danger as Santa Ana winds, known in Northern California as Diablo winds, Stewart said. “It's always dry. There's always fuel,” he said.
UC Cooperative Extension specialist Max Moritz said the state needs to incorporate wind corridors into its fire hazard severity zone maps, according to an article on ScienceMag.org. Stricter building codes apply in places designated as high-risk.
UC ANR scientists also generate local fire recovery and mitigation resources for the public in wildfire-prone counties.
Links to all the sites have been aggregated on a UC ANR story map - https://arcg.is/0SWyW8. This story map may be freely shared on websites and social media. (Find the share URL and the embed code by clicking the share icon on the upper right hand corner of the story map.)
Local UC Cooperative Extension fire resources websites listed on the story map are:
The following general information on wildfire recovery is available for those who were directly impacted by the wildfire.
Don't get burned twice (pdf)
The site also provides information for those whose homes were spared in 2017, but now wish to take precautions to reduce the risk of wildfire damage in the future.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is a division of the University with scientists based on three UC campuses and in UC Cooperative Extension offices serving all California counties. UC ANR conducts research and shares research-based information with the public about wildfire, agricultural production, environmental stewardship, water policy, youth development and nutrition.
UC ANR Cooperative Extension weed specialist at UC Riverside
Management of invasive plants that introduce or alter fire regimes
UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley
Land change science including fire and land use planning
Mike De Lasaux
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor for Plumas and Sierra counties
Wildfire fuel reduction on small forest parcels, forestry and watershed management
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor for Los Angeles and Ventura counties
Plant arrangement, building design and maintenance to reduce fire risk, invasive weeds and pests contributing to fire risk
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resource monitoring specialist
Geographic information science, mapping forests
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor in the Central Sierra
Fire adapted communities, fire hazard mitigation in forests, post fire restoration
“Living with Fire in the Tahoe Basin” website, http://www.livingwithfire.info/tahoe/
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor
Desert species, invasive plants and fire
Professor of earth sciences, UC ANR Agricultural Experiment Station, UC Riverside
Fire ecology of Southern California, Baja California, and temperate Mexico; exotic plant invasions, climate change.
UC ANR Cooperative Extension wildfire specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. He is located in Santa Barbara County.
Wildland fire, fire modeling, fire effects, shrubland ecosystems and spatial patterns of fire disturbance, climate change adaptation
Associate professor of Forest Ecology, UC ANR ecologist
UC Cooperative Extension Area fire advisor - Northern California
Fire ecology and management
Plant pathology professor, UC ANR pathologist
Fire and infectious disease
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor
Public participation in resource management
UC Cooperative Extension area forestry and natural resources advisor in Shasta, Trinity and Siskiyou counties
Forest management and wood use
Environmental science professor at UC Davis and UC ANR ecologist
Forest plot mapping
UC ANR Cooperative Extension area natural resources wildlife specialist for Southern California
Conservation of wildlife, wildlife management at the urban-wildland interface, and response of plants and animal species to fire
Professor of fire science and co-director Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley, UC ANR fire scientist
Fire ecology, fire behavior, wildfire, fuels treatments, forest mortality, fire policy
UC ANR Cooperative Extension forestry specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and co-director Center for Fire Research and Outreach
Economics of fire prevention and fire suppression programs
UC ANR Cooperative Extension forest advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties and member of the Northern California Fire Science Consortium hub
Home and landscape design considerations for wildfire, prescribed fire, forest health and prescribed fire, wildfire and fuels in redwood, Douglas-fir and tanoak forests, fire education
UC Cooperative Extension forestry/fire science and natural resources advisor
Sutter, Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties
Fire ecology and management, fuels treatments and fire policy
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
To help people prepare, CAL FIRE has a checklist for evacuation online at http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Evacuation-Steps. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists contributed to the research behind the recommendations.
A one-page checklist online at http://disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/IBHS-Wildfire-Last-Minute-Checklist.pdf, also based on research by UC ANR scientists, is available from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.
Napa County residents have been told to be prepared in case they need to leave.
“We have team members tending to their own homes and or family's needs, providing support in shelters, and being available for immediate clientele needs in any way they can,” said David Lewis, UC Cooperative Extension director in Napa and Marin counties. “We look forward to calling upon UC colleagues with more experience to support our communities in the long recovery period. For the immediate future, we will stay focused in our efforts to support evacuation and shelter efforts – personal safety and needs are priority one until the fires no longer pose a threat.”
The main thing to remember when preparing to evacuate is to protect your life first.
“Don't die trying to prepare your house before you leave,” said Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension director and forest advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. “Monitor the situation, watch the wind directions, and listen to all emergency personnel.”
To receive timely updates on fire conditions, Brian Oatman, UC ANR Risk & Safety Services director, uses Nixle. “While some communication methods may not work due to outages, the more sources we have, the better the chance that the message gets through,” Oatman said. To sign up for text alerts, visit http://www.nixle.com or text your zipcode to 888-777 to opt-in.
“We have coordinated with CropMobster to create a resource list at https://sfbay.cropmobster.com/bay-area-fire-resources where anyone can post any needs or offer help of any kind,” said Stephanie Larson, UC Cooperative Extension director in Sonoma County. “UCCE Sonoma has also created a Disaster Recovery for Agriculture Operations at http://cesonoma.ucanr.edu/Disaster_Resources for homeowners and managers of rangelands. UCCE is working closely with Sonoma County to provide UC ANR resources to assist with the recovery of our community that has been devastated by this fire.”
In Yuba County, the Cascade fire is 45 percent contained as of Oct. 12. “Evacuation orders are being lifted in parts of Yuba County,” said Janine Hasey, UC Cooperative Extension director for Sutter and Yuba counties. “Kate Wilkin, our new UC Cooperative Extension forestry, fire science and natural resources advisor in Sutter, Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties, has assembled resources for residents who are returning to their homes at http://cesutter.ucanr.edu/Fire_Information. We will be updating the website with more recovery information in the coming days.”
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
California needs to increase the pace and scale of efforts to improve the health of its headwater forests — the source of two-thirds of the state's surface water supply. Management techniques including prescribed fire, managed wildfire and mechanical thinning can help rebuild resilience in these forests and prepare them for a challenging future.
These are among the key findings of a report released today by the PPIC Water Policy Center.
Decades of fire suppression have increased the density of trees and other fuels in headwater forests to uncharacteristically high levels and resulted in massive tree die-offs and large, severe wildfires. Improving forest health will require reducing the density of small trees and fuels on a massive scale.
This will require changes in the regulation, administration, and management of forests. Many of the recommended reforms in forest management can take place at low or no cost. But implementing them will require vision, determined leadership by state and federal officials, and the backing of an informed public.
“Actions to arrest the decline in forest health will take place far from urban centers,” said Van Butsic, a coauthor of the report and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. “But all Californians will benefit through continued supplies of high-quality water, natural environments, forest products and recreational landscapes.”
Changing the way forestry work is funded — and in some cases securing new funding — will also be needed to help expedite forest improvements. The authors suggest reforms that will enable the private sector and government agencies to use existing tools and funding opportunities more effectively and collaborate more easily on larger-scale management projects. One key recommendation is to find opportunities to combine revenue-generating timber harvesting with other management work to help offset the costs of efforts to improve forest health.
“Making forest health a top land management priority for public and private lands would be a critical first step in reversing the degraded condition of the state's headwater forests,” said report coauthor Henry McCann, a research associate with the PPIC Water Policy Center.
The report, Improving the Health of California's Headwater Forests, was supported with funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the US Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to Butsic and McCann, the coauthors are Jeffrey Mount and Brian Gray, both senior fellows at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Jodi Axelson, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley; Yufang Jin, an assistant professor in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at UC Davis; Scott Stephens, professor of fire science and co-director of the Center for Forestry and Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley; and William Stewart, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist and co-director of the Center for Forestry and Center for Fire Research and Outreach at the UC Berkeley.
- Contact: Jeannette Warnert, (559) 240-9850, email@example.com
The findings suggest many models of wildfire predictions do not accurately account for anthropogenic factors and may therefore be misleading when identifying the main causes/drivers of wildfires. The newest model proportionately accounts for climate change and human behavioral threats and allows experts to more accurately predict how much land is at risk of burning in California through 2050, which is estimated at more than 7 million acres in the next 25 years.
Climate change affects the severity of the fire season and the amount and type of vegetation on the land, which are major variables in predicting wildfires. However, humans contribute another set of factors that influence wildfires, including where structures are built, and the frequency and location of ignitions from a variety of sources—everything from cigarettes on the highway, to electrical poles that get blown down in Santa Ana winds. As a result of the near-saturation of the landscape, humans are currently responsible for igniting more than 90 percent of the wildfires in California.
“Individuals don't have much control over how climate change will effect wildfires in the future. However, we do have the ability to influence the other half of the equation, those variables that control our impact on the landscape,” said Michal Mann, assistant professor of geography at George Washington University and lead author of the study. “We can reduce our risks by disincentivizing housing development in fire-prone areas, better managing public land, and rethinking the effectiveness of our current firefighting approach.”
The researchers found that by omitting the human influence on California wildfires, they were overstating the influence of climate change. The authors recommend considering climate change and human variables at the same time for future models.
“There is widespread agreement about the importance of climate on wildfire at relatively broad scales. At more local scales, however, you can get the story quite wrong if you don't include human development patterns,” said co-author Max Moritz, UC Cooperative Extension fire ecology specialist whose lab is at the University of California, Berkeley. “This is an important finding about how we model climate change effects, and it also confirms that getting a handle on where and how we build our communities is essential to limiting future losses.”
Between 1999 and 2011, California reported an average of $160 million in annual wildfire-related damages, with nearly 13,000 homes and other structures destroyed in so-called state responsibility areas - fire jurisdictions maintained by California, according to Mann. During this same period, California and the U.S. Forest Service spent more than $5 billion on wildfire suppression.
In a model from 2014 that examined California wildfires' destruction over the last 60 years, Dr. Mann estimated that fire damage will more than triple by mid-century, increasing to nearly half a billion dollars annually. “This information is critical to policymakers, planners, and fire managers, to determine wildfire risks,” he said.
The paper, “Incorporating Anthropogenic Influences into Fire Probability Models: Effects of Human Activity and Climate Change on Fire Activity in California,” published Thursday in PLOS ONE.
Press release written by Emily Grebenstein, George Washington University, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-994-3087