Mendocino County
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Mendocino County

Education and research needed in battle against California wildfires

UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston presented the keynote address, 'Moving Toward a Fire-Resilient California,' at the April Fire Summit. (Photo: Evett Kilmartin)
I'm trained in soil chemistry, what on earth could I get from a Fire Summit? If you get the right speakers together, you can learn a lot! UC ANR and the California Fire Science Consortium sponsored a Fire Summit in Redding in April for some 150 participants representing more than 50 organizations. The intent was to help California better understand the wildfire challenges and to identify actionable solutions. The ongoing and seemingly increasing number of wildfires across the state was the background for bringing people together. As one speaker said, “It's not a matter of if, but when” the next fires comes. We need to accept fire as a part of our system - just as we accept the potential (and take the necessary steps to counter) earthquakes. So how can we better live with fires?

Why are we in this situation? Multiple factors are involved. We suppressed wildfires in our forests for 100 years, and stopped using prescribed fire as a tool for ecosystem benefits and fuel reduction. Further, we have been experiencing hotter summers (so the window for burning is wider) and we've continued to build into wildfire-prone areas with home construction, lot layout and community planning that often are not up to the fire challenge. 

Is there hope? I present these as my take always, noting there is more detail to be seen at the UC ANR fire and other websites (e.g., CFSC). I was impressed by the three relatively clear battle grounds we need to attend to:

  1. Our homes: how we build, layout and landscape our homes
  2. Our communities: how we structure our neighborhoods and communities
  3. Our forests and beyond: how we manage (what I'll call) the forests and wildlands. Each has particular needs and opportunities

Tom Garcia, fire management officer with the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, spoke at the UC ANR Fire Summit. (Photo: Evett Kilmartin)
There is no single simple solution. We need to integrate options, including firefighters, decreasing fuel loads, prescribed fires, better community layout, better home construction and appropriate landscaping. And perhaps the biggest need of all is the sharing of information! In this respect, much is known, but to be successful, will require a massive educational and extension effort supported by ongoing research. While many organizations have a role to play, we have to ensure that funding gets to the organizations best suited to play the roles needed. 

While the above focuses on prevention and management of fires, the Summit had good representation of the health sector, reminding us of the need to help humans, domestic animals and wildlife affected and traumatized by fire events.

The Summit was deemed by the participants themselves as very successful. Kudos to the many organizations who participated. There is momentum building with a genuine desire to work together to help the people of California. 

Want to learn more? Contact some of our experts, who served as the chairs of the Summit coordinating committee:

David Lile, Leader, Sustainable Natural Ecosystems Strategic Initiative, UC ANR

Lenya Quinn-Davidson, fire advisor, Cooperative Extension, Humboldt County, UC ANR

Yana Valachovic, forest advisor, Cooperative Extension, Humboldt and Del Norte County, UC ANR

Want more? See UC ANR fire

 

Some 150 participants representing more than 50 organizations took part in the 2019 Fire Summit. (Photo: Evett Kilmartin)
Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 8:36 AM
  • Author: Mark Bell

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