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Posts Tagged: wildfire

Wildfire risk should be considered when planning new developments

San Diego County officials want to approve construction of about 10,000 homes in areas largely labeled by CAL FIRE as posing a "very-high" fire hazard, reported Joshua Emerson Smith in the San Diego Union Tribune.

County supervisors said the subdivisions are badly needed and developers have laid out exhaustive fire-prevention blueprints. However, UC Cooperative Extension fire specialist Max Moritz said these building codes and other rules don't take into account whether a particular project should be built there at all.

“There are all these hazards that we use to guide our building and our zoning from floods to landslides, and fire is not one of them,” Moritz said.

“In the end, the taxpayer is left holding the bill for all this,” he said. “The developer may do a really good job at designing and convincing everybody that it's the right thing to do, but after they walk away, the public is left doing fuels maintenance for decades, and the public picks up the bill when there's a disaster.”

The Carr Fire burned 1,077 homes in Northern California during the summer of 2018. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management)
Posted on Monday, December 3, 2018 at 3:01 PM
Tags: Max Moritz (15), wildfire (116)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

November News Clips (11/15-11/30)

How they survived: Owners of the few homes left standing around Paradise, Calif., took critical steps to ward off wildfires

(Washington Post) Sarah Kaplan, Frances Stead Sellers, Nov. 30

…Though the United States spends upwards of $2 billion each year on fire suppression and billions more helping communities recover, the current budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program is just over $200 million — and it must address hurricanes, earthquakes and a host of other natural hazards as well as fires. Cal Fire provides grants for forest management and tree removal, but not structure modification.

The budget for the University of California Cooperative Extension program, which conducts fire research and outreach to homeowners, has been cut by almost half since 2000. There are now fewer than 20 extension advisers in forestry and fire serving a state with 40 million people and 15 million acres of public lands.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/how-they-survived-owners-of-the-few-homes-left-standing-around-paradise-calif-took-critical-steps-to-ward-off-wildfires/2018/11/30/db323782-f34b-11e8-80d0-f7e1948d55f4_story.html

Opinion | To Help Prevent the Next Big Wildfire, Let the Forest Burn

(NY Times) Ash Ngu and Sahil Chinoy, Nov. 29

Before Euro-American settlement in the 1800s, fires burned about 1.5 million acres of forest each year, on average, according to an analysis of fire return intervals by Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. Skies were most likely smoky through much of the summer and fall, and most forests in California burned every five to 25 years from wildfires caused by lightning or Native American burning practices, he said.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/29/opinion/sunday/california-wildfires-forest-management.html

Farmers make a “Romaine Recovery” after E. coli Outbreak

(NBC PalmSprings) Daytona Everett, Nov. 28

The FDA has now connected the Central Coast of California to 43 cases of E. coli across the country. However, romaine lettuce farmers in the Coachella Valley are just now bringing in their first winter harvest.

...The FDA now requires every package to “clearly and prominently label all individually packaged romaine products to identify growing region and harvest date for romaine; and to clearly and prominently label at the point of sale the growing region when it is now possible for romaine lettuce suppliers to label the package (e.g. individual unwrapped whole heads of romaine lettuce available in retail stores).”

“That also gets difficult because they harvest the lettuce and they stick a bunch of these in a box and then they go to a processing facility and you may be combining several different fields at once when you're processing that,” Milt Mcgiffen, an extension vegetable specialist from UC Riverside, said.

https://nbcpalmsprings.com/2018/11/28/farmers-make-a-romaine-recovery-after-e-coli-outbreak

Wildfire, Landscapes and Debris Fields: Mapping Risks After Major Wildfire

(Capital Public Radio) Beth Duncan, Nov. 27

Geologist spend a lot of time creating landslide risk maps after a major wildfire happens. The slope of the landscape, amount of rainfall and underlying geology of an area all play a role in how likely an area might be affected.

Forestry Specialist William Stewart explains what geologists are concerned about as winter storms move through the areas hit by wildfire this year.

“After the wildfire, there's a lot of burnt logs and other things there, but what happens when it starts raining is it'll saturate the soil and you'll start to get soil movement. And once you get a fair bit of it moving down, it can pick up boulders and other things in the soil, and pull down whole trees. So a debris flow has both mud and water and big chunks of rocks and logs in there and that's what if it hits a bridge or a home, or commercial center, can just wipe it out. It's just a huge amount of force that just levels everything in its path.”

http://www.capradio.org/news/insight/2018/11/27/wildfire-landscapes-and-debris-fields-mapping-risks-after-major-wildfire/

California Economic Summit Looks to Elevate Rural California

(AgNetWest) Brian German, Nov. 27

…“One of the things we really started digging into these last few years there, as part of our Working Landscapes Action Team and the summit as a whole, is this concept of there's two California's here,” said Vice President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Glenda Humiston. “You've got predominately coastal, large, urban areas here that are doing pretty well. But then you've got the rest of California that's still really hurting. High poverty, high unemployment, not the economic opportunities that they ought to have.”

Humiston explained that at last year's summit they were able to launch the Elevate Rural California initiative, with a goal of addressing three specific areas over the next few years. “Water infrastructure, biomass, high-value biomass opportunities I want to qualify that strongly, and then the broadband, particularly rural broadband,” Humiston noted.

http://agnetwest.com/california-economic-summit-rural/

Why There Are Challenges To Doing More Prescribed Burns As Part Of Forest Management

(NPR All Things Considered) Ezra David Romero, Nov. 27

…But can the use of prescribed burns be expanded?

Roger Bales with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced says yes. “They can be scaled up as long as we can provide the financing to do them,” Bales said. “As long as we do them in a way that doesn't degrade the air quality.”

…The cost of a prescribed burn varies depending on time of year and resources. Robert York with UC Berkeley's Blodgett Forest Research Station says the warmer and drier the climate, the more expensive a burn.

Still, York supports burning year-round. “If the conditions are good, let's have lots of burns going on in the Sierra Nevada,” he said.

https://www.npr.org/2018/11/27/670677071/why-there-are-challenges-to-doing-more-prescribed-burns-as-part-of-forest-manage

Field Scouting Guide: Palmer Amaranth

(Growing Produce) Karli Petrovic, Nov. 27

This month's field scouting guide concentrates on Amaranthus palmeri S. Watson (Palmer amaranth). We've reached out to weed scientists to learn how to spot and treat this weed.

Our contributors are Lynn Brandenberger, Oklahoma State University; W. Carroll Johnson, III, Ph.D., USDA-ARS; Mohsen B. Mesgaran, Ph.D., University of California, Davis; and Lynn M. Sosnoskie, Ph.D., University of California Cooperative Extension.

https://www.growingproduce.com/vegetables/field-scouting-guide-palmer-amaranth

Who is Responsible for Burned Trees After a Wildfire?

(NPR Morning Edition) Eric Whitney, Nov. 26

…SCOTT STEPHENS: I would be very nervous about big oaks and potential for them to come down because the oaks, a lot of times, have heart rot. They have rotten material inside the center. And a lot of times a smoldering fire can burn in there for days and days and days. I've been around oaks like that. And all of a sudden, a week later - boom - it comes down.

WHITNEY: The danger can persist a lot longer than a week, Stephens says, as burned trees that are strong now continue to deteriorate.

STEPHENS: Probably by year four, five, they start to really get less structurally sound. Then, of course, you get a wind event, big storms, and they start coming down in earnest. And by year 10, they're coming down a great deal.

https://www.npr.org/2018/11/26/670752900/who-is-responsible-for-burned-trees-after-a-wildfire

California dairy program celebrates 20 years

DairyBusiness, Nov. 26

…Recognizing a need to respond and be proactive, a committee of dairy producers, government agency representatives, industry leaders, and university specialists gathered to create the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP), ensuring high-quality milk production and continuous improvement in environmental stewardship. It was also a prime opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of the California dairy industry to producing high quality, safe products, in an environmentally friendly, animal-care conscience manner. Initial funding was provided by the California Farm Bureau Federation, California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF). Dr. Michael Payne, a University of California veterinary researcher was brought on board to direct the program and Dr. Deanne Meyer, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist, was enlisted to develop educational programs. Continued CDRF funding provided an important direct tie to dairy producers through check off dollars, and industry expertise.

https://www.dairybusiness.com/california-dairy-program-celebrates-20-years/

Are Your Vineyards Smart Enough to Beat the Heat?

(Growing Produce) Matthew Fidelibus, Nov. 24

…A number of strategies can be considered to adapt to increasing temperatures. Small increases in temperature might be mitigated by employing various cultural practices including pruning, irrigation and fertilization, canopy management, and crop protectants, which may help reduce fruit exposure and reduce crop load.

Irrigation and fertilization can be used to help establish sufficient canopy shade before heat waves occur. The possibility of having overexposed fruit during heat waves should be considered when evaluating canopy management practices such as leafing and shoot positioning. Crop protectants such as particle films may provide protection for overexposed fruit.

https://www.growingproduce.com/fruits/grapes/are-your-vineyards-smart-enough-to-beat-the-heat

Fighting fire with fire via ‘pyrosilviculture'

(Davis Enterprise) Jeannette Warnert, Nov. 21

…The event also raised awareness of “pyrosilviculture,” a new forest management term coined by UC fire scientist Rob York to emphasize the importance of fire in silviculture, the management of forests for wood.

https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/fighting-fire-with-fire-via-pyrosilviculture/

Fixing state's fire problem: Costly, complex, next to impossible

(SF Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, Nov. 21

…Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, said that technology has helped fire scientists pinpoint areas where wind, heat, vegetation and other factors conspire to pose the greatest threats. It's just that the risk maps aren't being used to guide development.

“We need more than an academic paper here and there on wind,” Stewart said. “The number of windy days per year should help determine new zoning policy for planners.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/california-wildfires/article/Fixing-state-s-fire-problem-Costly-complex-13406892.php

Actually, Even California Says Trump Is Right About the Wildfires

(RealClear Politics) Betsy McCaughey, Nov. 21

President Donald Trump's critics are belittling him for not buying the politically correct narrative that global warming is to blame for the California wildfires. Instead, Trump correctly points to decades of mistakes by state and federal forest agencies that caused the woodlands to be become overly dense and blanketed with highly flammable dead wood and underbrush.

… This multifaceted approach is too much to put in a mere tweet. But University of California forest expert Yana Valachovic concedes that Trump's "general sentiment is correct."

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2018/11/21/the_burning_issue_with_california_fires__138713.html

Living on the Edge

(Slate Magazine) James B. Meigs, Nov. 20

…But the photos tell a different story. Within Paradise itself, the main fuel feeding the fire wasn't trees, nor the underbrush Trump suggested should have been raked up. It was buildings. The forest fire became an infrastructure fire. Fire researchers Faith Kearns and Max Moritz describe what can happen when a wildfire approaches a suburban neighborhood during the high-wind conditions common during the California fall: First, a “storm of burning embers” will shower the neighborhood, setting some structures on fire. “Under the worst circumstances, wind driven home-to-home fire spread then occurs, causing risky, fast-moving ‘urban conflagrations' that can be almost impossible to stop and extremely dangerous to evacuate.” The town of Paradise didn't just experience a fast-moving wildfire, its own layout, building designs, and city management turned that fire into something even scarier.

…Of course, when fires do occur, the residents of these areas suffer the most. The question is how to provide the right incentives for people so that we limit the chances of this happening again. Looking ahead, “We need to ensure that prospective homeowners can make informed decisions about the risks they face in the WUI,” Moritz, Tague, and Anderson say.

https://slate.com/technology/2018/11/camp-fire-disaster-causes-urban-wildland-interface.html

Why California Can't Chainsaw Its Way Out Of A Raging Inferno

(BuzzFeed) Peter Aldhous, Nov. 20

…Still, supporters of thinning argue that it is a viable option in some forests, especially dry pine and mixed-conifer forests at lower elevations. Historically, forests like these burned with low intensity every decade or so, keeping them patchy and fairly sparse. There, decades of fire suppression should be countered with careful thinning to mimic the natural state, according to Scott Stephens, a forestry scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Stephens has compared low-elevation forests in Southern California with those over the border in Baja California, Mexico, where fire suppression didn't begin until the 1970s. The naturally patchy Mexican forests, he has found, are much more resilient: Even in the face of a four-year drought and a 2003 wildfire, only 20% of the trees died. (In the Cedar fire in San Diego County that same year, between 40% and 95% of trees in the affected areas perished.)

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/peteraldhous/logging-forest-california-wildfires

California's Fire Season Extends Beyond Summer Months (AUDIO)

(NPR Morning Edition) Nov. 20

Steve Inskeep talks to Lenya Quinn-Davidson, fire adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension, about what an extended fire season means for state residents.

https://www.npr.org/2018/11/20/669482111/californias-fire-season-extends-beyond-summer-months

Santa Maria-Bonita School Districts teams up with 4H for kids career day

(KEYT) Naja Hill, Nov. 18

Santa Maria-Bonita School Districts came together for a career and leadership day at Liberty Elementary. The event, called 4H SNAC, was a collaboration between UC CalFresh Nutrition and the youth organization 4 H. SNAC stands for Student Nutrition Advisory Council.

The goal of the youth program is to advocate child development to 5th and 6th graders in underserved, low-income communities. Various guest speakers came to teach kids how to live a healthy lifestyle.

The event was 4H's 4th annual career day. One topic of focus was presentation skills. The students also got an opportunity to speak to professionals from different fields such as firefighters, a nurse, and a dentist.

https://www.keyt.com/news/santa-maria-bonita-school-districts-teams-up-with-4h-for-kids-career-day/872891650

Trump suggests Californians can rake their forests to prevent wildfires. (He is wrong.)

(Washington Post) Avi Selk, Nov. 18

“His general sentiment is correct — that we need to manage fuels,” said Yana Valachovic a forest adviser with the University of California's Cooperative Extension program. “And yeah, managing that pine litter adjacent to our homes and buildings is super important. … But the reality is, to manage every little bit of fuel with a rake is not practical.”

Raking is an effective way to clear light debris like leaves and pine needles away from residences, she said. It's of much less use on the forest floor, where infernos burn through swaths of brush and large debris that only heavy machinery can clear.

California's problems are complicated, she said — a combination of hot, dry climates, poor community design and “100 years of fire suppression” that helped turn forests into tinder boxes.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/11/18/trump-suggests-californians-can-rake-their-forests-prevent-wildfires-he-is-wrong

How Trump administration pressure to dump 4-H's LGBT policy led to Iowa leader's firing

Courtney Crowder and Jason Clayworth, Des Moines Register, Nov. 18

Katherine Soule, the chair of an LGBT working group in 2016 and a leader of California's 4-H, said group leaders were asked to adapt the Obama administration's Dear Colleague letter protecting gender-identity rights for 4-H.

Soules and a group of Western 4-H leaders created a best-practices document that became the foundation of a national guidance document.

...The about-face on the LGTB policy by national 4-H headquarters left some 4-H volunteers angry and program officials confused, according to the Register's investigation.

“I feel bad for the folks at USDA,” Glenda Humiston, the vice president of the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources, told other 4-H leaders during a May training video. “I think they are in between a rock and a hard place.”

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2018/11/18/4-h-transgender-lgbt-iowa-john-paul-chaisson-cardenas-iowa-state-university-civil-rights/1572199002/

Lessons from Camp Fire: Staying alive in California fire country

(Mercury News) Lisa Krieger, Nov. 17

Even as smoke chokes the sky and shrouds the sun, millions of Bay Area and other California residents remain unprepared for the next inferno.

…“You can only pour so many cars into different arteries at the same time,” said J. Keith Gilless, professor and dean emeritus at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources.

…“Fewer than half of families in our area have taken the time to sit down, write out an emergency plan, discuss it with family members and maybe even do a practice run,” said UC Berkeley's Gilless.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/11/17/lessons-from-paradise-staying-alive-in-fire-country

Facts Matter: President's posts on wildfires misleading

(Chicago Daily Herald) Bob Oswald, Nov. 17

The current wildfires aren't forest fires and are not the responsibility of forest management, the Times said.

"These fires aren't even in forests," Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the Times.

The Camp and Woolsey fires began where communities are close to undeveloped areas, the Times said. Fires in these locations are more deadly and costly because of the proximity to homes and towns.

https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20181117/facts-matter-presidents-posts-on-wildfires-misleading

Why didn't PG&E shut down power in advance of deadly Camp Fire? Here's the data.

(Mercury News) Matthias Gafni, Nov. 17

…Thomas Scott, who has written about fire management in California's wildland urban interface and works with the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, wonders if the decision to keep power on may have had to do with the complaints the utility received after its October shutdown.

“Any rationale they had for keeping the lines hot has tragically backfired for everyone involved,” he said. “Can't understand what they were contemplating; perhaps they maintained power until the last possible moment because that action breeds unhappy customers and dangerous situations if power is turned off.”

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/11/17/why-didnt-pge-shut-down-power-in-advance-of-deadly-camp-fire-heres-the-data

Examining Jerry Brown's veto of California wildfire legislation and the criticism of it

(Politifact) Chris Nichols, Nov. 16

Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, reviewed the bill and Brown's veto message. He said in an email, "I do not think it would have made much of a difference, as the amount of funds was not that great ($582,000 that may have just led to some hiring of consultants and a lot interaction with the communities) and, more importantly, no new advances would have been made."

Stewart, however, went on to describe the legislation as "a good shot across the bow to the (Brown) administration to do more. This area of risk assessment and mitigation has been woefully underfunded for decades."

https://www.politifact.com/california/article/2018/nov/16/examining-jerry-browns-veto-2016-wildfire-legislat

How fierce fall and winter winds help fuel California fires

(The Conversation) Faith Kearns and Max Moritz, Nov. 16

… Fire hazard is determined by a variety of factors that include vegetation, topography and weather. Add people and homes, and you get fire risk. While wind is one of the biggest factors in fire spread, it also generates flying embers far ahead of the fire itself.

… Managing the type and amount of vegetation, or “fuel,” in an area provides a set of tools for altering fire behavior in wildland fires. But during wind-driven urban conflagrations, homes are usually a major – if not the main – source of fuel.

…As residents and researchers who have worked extensively on fire in California, we believe the state and its newly elected leadership face a formidable challenge and an opportunity to reinvest in a robust, interdisciplinary approach to wildfire risk reduction that combines the best of both research and practice. It must integrate both new (and potentially controversial) urban planning reforms as well as novel thinking about evacuation alternatives.

https://theconversation.com/how-fierce-fall-and-winter-winds-help-fuel-california-fires-106985

California Citrus Network Now Available as Grower Resource

(AgNetWest) Nov. 16

The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) has launched the California Citrus Network as a means to address industry concerns through a collaborative approach.  The new website will be another resource available to those involved with citrus production who may have questions or concerns about their operation.

“If they see something out in the field that's unusual, they can snap some pictures with their smartphone or their tablet and they can go onto the forum site,” said UCCE Area Citrus Advisor for Tulare, Fresno, and Madera Counties Greg Douhan.  “Let's say you think something is some sort of disease issue, you can go in there and look on that and see if anybody else has been seeing the same thing.  Or you can post a question and say, ‘hey I'm finding this unusual situation out in my field, is anybody else seeing this?' so it's just a way to communicate.”

http://agnetwest.com/california-citrus-network-now-available

Editorial: Horrifying infernos in California

(Providence RI Journal) Nov. 16

California deals with wildfires on an annual basis. Parts of the state were ravaged earlier this summer. But what has happened this month alone will make 2018 the worst year on record.

Five separate wildfires (named Camp, Nurse, Hill, Woolsey and Peak) in November have burned more than 245,000 acres of land.

…Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California, told the AP that there are “so many ways that can go wrong, in the warning, the modes of getting the message out, the confusion ... the traffic jams.” He suggested local officials consider building “local retreat zones” and “local safety zones” in urban communities to protect residents from the deadly wildfires.

http://www.providencejournal.com/opinion/20181116/editorial-horrifying-infernos-in-california

See how a warmer world primed California for large fires

(National Geographic) Alejandra Borunda, Nov. 15

…Over the past century, California has warmed by about three degrees Fahrenheit. That extra-warmed air sucks water out of plants and soils, leaving the trees, shrubs, and rolling grasslands of the state dry and primed to burn.

That vegetation-drying effect compounds with every degree of warming, explains Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, meaning that plants lose their water more efficiently today than they did before climate change ratcheted up California's temperatures.

…Changes in precipitation are another factor. California's summer dry season has also been lengthening. Each extra day lets plants dry out more, increasing their susceptibility to burning.

“Usually—or, I don't want to even say usually anymore because things are changing so fast—we get some rains around Halloween that wet things down,” says Faith Kearns, a scientist at University of California Institute for Water Resources in Oakland. But in the past few years, those rains haven't come until much later in the autumn—November, or even December.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/climate-change-california-wildfire

Why Wildfires Are Burning So Hot and Moving So Fast

(NPR) Kirk Siegler, Nov. 15 

…One recent study predicted several million homes built in the West are at immediate risk. Susie Kocher is a forester with the University of California's Cooperative Extension service here in the Sierra.

“We haven't caught up, and to retrofit our existing housing stock to fend off embers is a long-term, expensive proposition.”

Posted on Monday, December 3, 2018 at 12:07 PM
Tags: 4-H (1), citrus (1), Climate Change (14), dairy (1), vineyards (1), wildfire (116)

November News Clips (11/1-11/14)

As wildfires grow deadlier, officials search for solutions

(Associated Press) Matthew Brown and Ellen Knickmeyer, Nov. 14

…"There are ... so many ways that can go wrong, in the warning, the modes of getting the message out, the confusion ... the traffic jams," said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension program.

As deadly urban wildfires become more common, officials should also consider establishing "local retreat zones, local safety zones" in communities where residents can ride out the deadly firestorms if escape seems impossible, Moritz said.

… In the mid-20th century, California ranchers burned hundreds of thousands of acres annually to manage their lands, said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council.

That was phased out in the 1980s after California's fire management agency stepped in to take over the burns, and by the last decade, the amount of acreage being treated had dropped to less than 10,000 acres annually, Quinn-Davidson said.

Former agricultural land that rings many towns in the state became overgrown, even as housing developments pushed deeper into those rural areas. That was the situation in the Northern California town of Redding leading up to a fire that began in July and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. It was blamed for eight deaths.

"You get these growing cities pushing out - housing developments going right up into brush and wooded areas. One ignition on a bad day, and all that is threatened," Quinn-Davidson said. "These fires are tragic, and they're telling us this is urgent. We can't sit on our hands."

http://www.kulr8.com/story/39483128/fatal-california-fires-spur-search-for-solutions

 

Camp Fire vs. Tubbs Fire: The two most destructive fires in California history
(San Francisco Chronicle) Amy Graff, Nov. 14

Comparing California's most destructive wildfires -- the current Camp Fire and last year's Tubb's Fire -- College of Natural Resources Dean Emeritus Keith Gilless, also a forest economics professor, says: "One fundamental difference that occurs to me is that the Tubbs fire broke out late at night, which made notification and evacuation particularly difficult." Professor Gilless also discussed California's wildfires on WBUR's On Point program.

https://www.sfgate.com/california-wildfires/article/Camp-Fire-vs-Tubbs-Fire-compared-most-destructive-13388778.php

 

Trump and Brown stir up rhetoric on wildfires but overlook pressing problems

(LA Times) Bettina Boxall, Nov. 14

… “I've been following these issues for 40 years, and I don't remember a time when the issue of wildfire has ever been politicized anywhere close to the extent it is now,” said Richard Frank, director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at UC Davis.

… Similarly, UC Berkeley fire scientist Scott Stephens said that although climate change is playing a role in wildfire growth, he worries that a focus on global warming can leave the public thinking that “there's really nothing to be done.”

In fact, he said, “Communities could still be better prepared.”

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-fire-policy-trump-brown-20181114-story.html

 

Staggered evacuation plan questioned in fire's aftermath

(Associated Press) Paul Elias, Kathleen Ronayne, Nov. 14

…Paradise sits on a ridge between two higher hills, with only one main exit out of town. The best solution seemed to be to order evacuations in phases, so people didn't get trapped.

“Gridlock is always the biggest concern,” said William Stewart, a forestry professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

…Likewise, Stewart, the forestry professor, said the wildfire that hit Paradise disrupted the orderly evacuation plan because it “was moving too fast. All hell broke loose.”

He said experts continue to debate how best to issue evacuation orders and no ideal solution has been found.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/guard-troops-search-for-more-dead-in-aftermath-of-wildfire/2018/11/14/386bcbc2-e873-11e8-8449-1ff263609a31_story.html

Blueberry growers focus on open market window

(Ag Alert) Padma Nagappan, Nov. 14

…It makes sense to tap the market earlier in the year, when California growers are not competing with others entering the market and there are better margins to be had. That's why Ramiro Lobo and others from the University of California have been working on a long-term berry trial in Southern California, to look for the best varieties that can be produced early in the year.

"You have to be in the market as early as you can, because by April and beginning of May, the prices are so low, it doesn't even pay for the harvest," Lobo said. He is a small farms and agricultural economics advisor with UC Cooperative Extension.

http://www.agalert.com/story/Default.aspx?id=12300

 

Sanitation is foundation of Navel orangeworm control

(Farm Press) Logan Hawkes, Nov 14

So far this year, early estimates reveal that nut damage and subsequent losses from NOW larvae, will be less than in 2017, though the pest remains a major concern in almond, pistachio, and even walnut orchards. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resource (UC-ANR) advisors note that a successful management plan for controlling Navel orangeworm starts in the fall following harvest and continues through the winter months.

"Sanitation is the foundation of Navel orangeworm control," says Pheobe Gordon of UC Cooperative Extension. "Post-harvest sanitation is the first step in slowing the emergence of the pest when the new season begins."

… UC-ANR Extension IPM Specialist Dr. Jhalendra Rijal is one of the leading researchers on Navel orangeworm control in almonds and walnuts. "We have been working vigorously to better understand Navel orangeworms, how they reproduce, migrate, and survive,” he says.

https://www.westernfarmpress.com/tree-nuts/sanitation-foundation-navel-orangeworm-control

 

How Does California's Wildlife Cope With Massive Wildfires?

(Atlas Obscura) Anna Kusmer, Nov. 13

While many animals are indeed displaced by wildfires, it's important to note that fire is not wholly bad for landscapes in an ecological sense. In fact, many California ecosystems rely on fire to thrive. “Fire in the human sense can often be catastrophic, but it's not necessarily the same for animals,” says Greg Giusti, a retired University of California researcher and an expert on the relationship between wildfires and wildlife. He says California wildlife have evolved to respond to fires, and can even sometimes benefit from the disruption. “It's harsh out there, but you know these animals have evolved to survive in that hostile environment.”

There are a variety to survival tactics that California wildlife will use, says Giusti. For example, birds are easily able to fly away and are usually not impacted as long as fires don't occur during the spring when they are nesting and raising their offspring.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-does-californias-wildlife-cope-with-massive-wildfires

 

The Manmade Causes Of California's Endless Fire Season

(OnPoint) Meghna Chakrabarti, Nov 13

California's endless fire season. Whether it's climate change, development or forest management, we'll look at the causes — all manmade.

Guests:

Scott McLean, deputy chief, chief of information for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Ryan Lillis, reporter for the Sacramento Bee who has covered most of Northern California's fires for last 12 years. (@Ryan_Lillis)

J. Keith Gilless, professor of forest economics at University of California, Berkeley and chair of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection on Cal Fire's policy board.

Glen MacDonald, professor of geography at University of California, Los Angeles who has spent decades studying climate and the effects of wildfires. He and his family were among the hundreds of thousands of people who evacuated their homes because of the Woolsey Fire. (@GlenMMacDonald1)

http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/11/13/californias-endless-fire-season-climate-change

 

California Must Better Prepare For The Inevitability Of Future Fires

(Pacific Standard) Max Moritz, Naomi Tague & Sarah Anderson, Nov 13

Wildfire has been an integral part of California ecosystems for centuries. Now, however, nearly a third of homes in California are in wildland urban interface areas where houses intermingling with wildlands and fire is a natural phenomenon. Just as Californians must live with earthquake risk, they must live with wildfires.

https://psmag.com/environment/california-must-better-prepare-for-future-fires

 

Forest management debate

(KTVU) Heather Holmes, Nov. 12

In a live interview, Bill Stewart, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, said,

“It was actually on the private land that we saw better performance in terms of being able to put out the fire quicker and a lot less smoke being produced. There is a package of vegetation management and fire suppression on private lands that have proved to be more effective than what's being used on federal land.

“What we found is about half the difference comes from the private land managers do more aggressive timber harvesting and some of that profit they spend to reduce the shrubs and fuels that are on the ground because they have that cashflow. They're protecting their long-term assets. The other half is CALFIRE is much more aggressive when it comes to fire suppression in forests or shrublands.

http://www.ktvu.com/news/372545595-video

 

Trump Right? Hack-and-Squirt the Forest. Created the Huge California Fire Hazard

(Mary Greeley News) Mary Greeley, Nov. 12

On average, the cost of thinning forests through hack-and-squirt while leaving the dead trees standing is about $250 per acre, said Greg Giusti, a forest advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension. The cost of cutting and leaving them on the ground is about $750 an acre, while cutting and hauling them away is about $1,000 an acre.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEOETb7ttaY

 

Trump's Misleading Claims About California's Fire ‘Mismanagement'

(New York Times) Kendra Pierre-Louis, Nov. 12

…Mr. Trump is suggesting that forest management played a role, but California's current wildfires aren't forest fires.

“These fires aren't even in forests,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

…“We have vulnerable housing stock already out there on the landscape. These are structures that were often built to building codes from earlier decades and they're not as fire resistant as they could be,” Dr. Moritz said. “This issue of where and how we built our homes has left us very exposed to home losses and fatalities like these.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/us/politics/fact-check-trump-california-fire-tweet.html

 

Carbon Farming Initiative Takes Tentative First Steps in Santa Ynez Valley

(Noozhaw) Garrett Hazelwood, Nov. 12

On a recent morning in the Santa Ynez Valley, a crowd of people gathered at the Ted Chamberlin Ranch to discuss soil health and so-called carbon farming. 

The event –– hosted by the Community Environmental Council, the Cachuma Resource Conservation District, and the Santa Barbara Agricultural Commissioner's Office –– showcased successful carbon farming trials recently conducted on the ranch, and was attended by local landowners, environmental activists, scientists and county officials.

Matthew Shapero, Livestock and Range Advisor for the UC Cooperative Extension, explained that the grasses surrounding the site had sprouted green last spring and have since died in the heat of summer, becoming what he calls “residual dry matter.” Now the brittle, golden shoots have become a sparse cover for hard-packed soil that's cracked and dry.

https://www.noozhawk.com/article/carbon_farming_initiative_takes_tentative_first_steps_in_santa_ynez_valley

 

California's year-round wildfire threat: Why aren't communities doing more?

(SF Chronicle) Peter Fimrite and Kurtis Alexander Nov. 10,

…“To have a president come out and say it's all because of forest management is ridiculous. It completely ignores the dynamic of what's going on around us.” said LeRoy Westerling, a climate and fire scientist at UC Merced, who blamed the increasing number of fires on rising temperatures and more variable precipitation, leading to longer spells of dry weather.

…“It's like a tragic replay of last year, with strong winds in both Northern California and Southern California blowing fire,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara, recalling the 2017 Wine Country fires and the Thomas Fire, which burned through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in December.

…“We had a lot of discussion after the fires last year about the liability issue with utilities, but it's interesting to see what didn't happen,” Moritz said. “Nobody has talked about mapping neighborhoods and homes in fire-prone areas like they do in flood plain hazard zones, engineering resilience into communities, or building a little smarter.”

…Everybody agrees the situation is dire. Fire officials blame shorter winters, hotter temperatures and drier vegetation, but very little is being done to improve the situation, said Scott Stevens, a professor of fire science at UC Berkeley.

“There is an under-appreciation of fire risk in a lot of communities,” Stevens said. “It feels like we can do better at allowing local communities to access information, reduce their vulnerability and understand their vulnerability a little bit more.”

Stevens urged the creation of cooperative programs at his and other universities that would allow local government officials to collaborate with fire experts on safety planning.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/california-wildfires/article/California-s-year-round-wildfire-threat-Why-13379734.php

 

California's most destructive wildfire should not have come as a surprise

(LA Times) Bettina Boxall and Paige St. John, Nov. 10

…“We have these Santa Ana-like events happening in places that are appearing to catch people by surprise,” said Max Moritz, a cooperative extension wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara's Bren School. “But they shouldn't be catching people by surprise.”

“These are areas that have burned before,” he said. “And if we were to go back and do the wind mapping, we would find that at some intervals, these areas are prone to these north and northeasterly Santa Ana-like events.”

… “We have all kinds of tools to help us do this smarter, to build in a more sustainable way and to co-exist with fire,” he said. “But everybody throws up their hands and says, ‘Oh, all land-use planning is local. You can't tell people that they can't build there.' And the conversation stops right there.”

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-camp-fire-science-20181110-story.html

 

Are Organic Farms Ruining California's Rural Coast?

(Pacific Standard) Laura Fraser, Nov. 9

David Lewis, county director of the UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County, estimates that the Point Reyes ranches contribute as much as 20 percent of the county's $110 million in annual agricultural production. Given the industries that support agriculture—feed companies, veterinary services, a grass-fed beef butchery—the overall economic output of the ranches may be three times that amount. If the ranches closed, Lewis says, "You'd be losing about $60 million a year in production." The ranchers also contribute more than 5,000 jobs in the region, on and off the farms.

https://psmag.com/.amp/environment/are-organic-farms-ruining-california-rural-coast

 

Countries Embrace Genome Editing in Contrast of EU's Opinion

(AgNet West) Brian German, Nov. 8

The United States joined 12 other nations to encourage policies to enable continued agricultural innovation, including genome editing.  Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Vietnam were among the countries issuing support of the International Statement on Agricultural Applications of Precision Biotechnology.  Noticeably absent from the joint statement of support was the European Union (EU).

…“Ideally, or in theory, regulations are meant to be in place to address risk.  And so the more risk, the more regulation and the less risk the less regulation,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, Animal Genomics and Biotechnology Specialist at UC Davis. “But in this case, it's just regulation triggered by a particular process irrespective of the risk of the product.”

http://agnetwest.com/countries-genome-editing-contrast-eu/

 

University of California's Glenda Humiston wins 2018 California Steward Leader Award

(CA Economy) Nadine Ono, Nov. 8

Glenda Humiston has always been involved in rural issues from her days growing up on a farm to her current position as vice president of University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“I was really involved in the 1990s in trying to figure out how agriculture and environmental interests find common ground, as well as building bridges between rural and urban sectors," said Humiston. "In the 2000s, I started focusing on economic development and sustainability. In my current job, I'm bringing all of those together around the reality that sustainability truly has to be a triple bottom line. We've got to develop ways for people, the planet and prosperity to all thrive and enhance the synergies between them."

Humiston will be awarded the 2018 California Steward Leader Award at the California Economic Summit. She currently serves on the 2018 Economic Summit Steering Committee, as well the Action Team co-lead for Working Landscapes and co-chair of the Elevate Rural California initiative.

http://caeconomy.org/reporting/entry/university-of-californias-glenda-humiston-wins-2018-california-steward-lead

 

Instances of Bindweed Popping Up in Central Valley Farms

(AgNet West) Brian German, Nov. 7

Waterhemp is continuing to cause some concern in and around Merced County, but there is another problematic weed species that growers should be aware of and remain on the lookout for. “Bindweed is actually a big problem throughout the central valley of California,” said Agronomy and Weed Science Advisor for Merced and Madera Counties, Lynn Sosnoskie. “It's really a concern particularly where we have crops that are grown on drip irrigation and reduced tillage systems.”

http://agnetwest.com/bindweed-popping-central-valley-farms/

 

Agriculture group to hear from extension speaker

(Ventura County Star) Nov. 7

The Ventura County chapter of California Women for Agriculture will host a presentation by Annemiek Schilder of the University of California Cooperative Extension and Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center. 

https://www.vcstar.com/story/money/business/2018/11/08/agriculture-group-hear-extension-speaker/1900084002

 

Minorities Are Most Vulnerable When Wildfires Strike in U.S., Study Finds

(New York Times) Kendra Pierre-Louis, Nov. 3

…The study, which appears in the journal PLoS One this month, suggests that people of color, especially Native Americans, face more risk from wildfires than whites. It is another example of how the kinds of disasters exacerbated by climate change often hit minorities and the poor the hardest.

…Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor of environmental health at the University of California, Berkeley, said the research could be useful in preparing for future disasters. “Results of this study can help inform planning and outreach efforts to enhance the resilience of fire-prone communities, particularly for communities of color that are often overlooked when these disasters happen,” she said in an email.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/03/climate/wildfires-minorities-risk.html

 

Wildfire Risk A Key Issue In California Insurance Commissioner Race

(Capital Radio) Ezra David Romero, Nov. 2

…"I recently talked to a homeowner who had his insurance canceled about three months before his house was destroyed by a wildfire,” said UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor Susan Kocher.

Kocher says calls from homeowners come often, and that people's reality is something the new commissioner will have to deal with: a complicated insurance system and a warming climate that's increasing the number, size and impact of fires in California.

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2018/11/02/wildfire-risk-a-key-issue-in-california-insurance-commissioner-race/

 

A New Hue

(California Bountiful) Kevin Hecteman, Nov. 1

… C. Scott Stoddard, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Merced County, is running trials with different purple varieties, working in concert with a sweet potato breeder at Louisiana State University.

One recent test variety, he noted, started off well from a color and yield standpoint a couple of years ago, but the interior color wasn't quite purple enough—he was getting more of a lavender potato.

"We are still very experimental," Stoddard said. "There's nothing that looks like it's going to have something there any time soon."

http://www.californiabountiful.com/features/article.aspx?arID=2204

Eating right learned at school

(Roseville Press Tribune) Carol Feineman, Nov. 1

More than 25 percent of youth ages 5 to 19 are overweight in Placer and Nevada counties, according to University of California CalFresh Nutrition Education Program, Placer/Nevada counties. The program is part of the University of California Cooperative Extension.

UC CalFresh is trying to lower that percentage by offering nutrition classes for adults and also teaching some Roseville, Lincoln and Sheridan public school students how to eat healthier. The organization also works with area school gardens.

…“As students get older, they're making more of the choices themselves. So many kids end up being home by themselves or packing their lunch,” said Rosemary Carter, UC CalFresh program manager for Placer-Nevada Counties. “I want them to understand what the healthy foods will do for their bodies. I want them to make the healthy choices, to make an educated choice.”

http://www.thepresstribune.com/article/11/01/18/eating-right-learned-school

Why the FDA's plan to regulate gene editing in animals has some scientists worried

(Pacific Standard) Emily Moon, Nov 1

…While genetically engineered animals have been met with controversy, animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam believed her own work would be immune. In her lab at the University of California–Davis, Van Eenennaam uses genetic editing technology to develop cows without horns. The process, she says, is no different than traditional breeding, in which breeders select for naturally occurring mutations. "Nature does this routinely, because there are always breaks getting introduced into double-stranded DNA by radiation and sunlight and alcohol, you name it," she says. "That's how evolution happens."

https://psmag.com/news/why-the-fdas-plan-to-regulate-gene-editing-in-animals-has-some-scientists-worried

Posted on Monday, December 3, 2018 at 11:59 AM

UC fire scientists provide invaluable expertise to media during fire tragedies

The recent outbreak in California of two devastating fires - the Woolsey Fire in Ventura and Los Angeles counties and the Camp Fire in Butte County - are being covered extensively by the news media. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources fire scientists provide a valuable service by making themselves available to share their expertise during these tragedies. Below are a sampling of recent fire stories with comments from UC ANR sources.

Why Wildfires Are Burning So Hot And Moving So Fast

(NPR) Kirk Siegler 

…One recent study predicted several million homes built in the West are at immediate risk. Susie Kocher is a forester with the University of California's Cooperative Extension service here in the Sierra.

“We haven't caught up, and to retrofit our existing housing stock to fend off embers is a long-term, expensive proposition.”

These wind-driven fires often carry air and embers that land on a roof or get sucked into a vent long after the main wall of flames has passed through. In fact, that's when most homes actually burn in wildfires.

“Even areas like Paradise that have been inhabited for 140 years as more vulnerable than they used to be. And that's not because there's new development but because there's a new climate around the old community.”

And that brings us to one of the biggest factors: climate change. Droughts are longer and more severe. The snow is melting quicker. The fire seasons are longer if not year-round.  

http://www.capradio.org/news/npr/story?storyid=668163465

 

As wildfires grow deadlier, officials search for solutions

(Associated Press) Matthew Brown and Ellen Knickmeyer, Nov. 14

…"There are ... so many ways that can go wrong, in the warning, the modes of getting the message out, the confusion ... the traffic jams," said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension program.

As deadly urban wildfires become more common, officials should also consider establishing "local retreat zones, local safety zones" in communities where residents can ride out the deadly firestorms if escape seems impossible, Moritz said.

… In the mid-20th century, California ranchers burned hundreds of thousands of acres annually to manage their lands, said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council.

That was phased out in the 1980s after California's fire management agency stepped in to take over the burns, and by the last decade, the amount of acreage being treated had dropped to less than 10,000 acres annually, Quinn-Davidson said.

Former agricultural land that rings many towns in the state became overgrown, even as housing developments pushed deeper into those rural areas. That was the situation in the Northern California town of Redding leading up to a fire that began in July and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. It was blamed for eight deaths.

"You get these growing cities pushing out - housing developments going right up into brush and wooded areas. One ignition on a bad day, and all that is threatened," Quinn-Davidson said. "These fires are tragic, and they're telling us this is urgent. We can't sit on our hands."

http://www.kulr8.com/story/39483128/fatal-california-fires-spur-search-for-solutions

 

Trump and Brown stir up rhetoric on wildfires but overlook pressing problems

(LA Times) Bettina Boxall, Nov. 14

… Similarly, UC Berkeley fire scientist Scott Stephens said that although climate change is playing a role in wildfire growth, he worries that a focus on global warming can leave the public thinking that “there's really nothing to be done.”

In fact, he said, “Communities could still be better prepared.”

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-fire-policy-trump-brown-20181114-story.html

 

How Does California's Wildlife Cope With Massive Wildfires?

(Atlas Obscura) Anna Kusmer, Nov. 13

While many animals are indeed displaced by wildfires, it's important to note that fire is not wholly bad for landscapes in an ecological sense. In fact, many California ecosystems rely on fire to thrive. “Fire in the human sense can often be catastrophic, but it's not necessarily the same for animals,” says Greg Giusti, a retired University of California researcher and an expert on the relationship between wildfires and wildlife. He says California wildlife have evolved to respond to fires, and can even sometimes benefit from the disruption. “It's harsh out there, but you know these animals have evolved to survive in that hostile environment.”

There are a variety to survival tactics that California wildlife will use, says Giusti. For example, birds are easily able to fly away and are usually not impacted as long as fires don't occur during the spring when they are nesting and raising their offspring.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-does-californias-wildlife-cope-with-massive-wildfires

 

The Manmade Causes Of California's Endless Fire Season

(OnPoint) Meghna Chakrabarti, Nov 13

California's endless fire season. Whether it's climate change, development or forest management, we'll look at the causes — all manmade.

Guests:

Scott McLean, deputy chief, chief of information for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Ryan Lillis, reporter for the Sacramento Bee who has covered most of Northern California's fires for last 12 years. (@Ryan_Lillis)

J. Keith Gilless, professor of forest economics at University of California, Berkeley and chair of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection on Cal Fire's policy board.

Glen MacDonald, professor of geography at University of California, Los Angeles who has spent decades studying climate and the effects of wildfires. He and his family were among the hundreds of thousands of people who evacuated their homes because of the Woolsey Fire. (@GlenMMacDonald1)

http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/11/13/californias-endless-fire-season-climate-change

California Must Better Prepare For The Inevitability Of Future Fires (reprint of The Conversation originally published in August)

(Pacific Standard) Max Moritz, Naomi Tague & Sarah Anderson, Nov 13

Wildfire has been an integral part of California ecosystems for centuries. Now, however, nearly a third of homes in California are in wildland urban interface areas where houses intermingling with wildlands and fire is a natural phenomenon. Just as Californians must live with earthquake risk, they must live with wildfires.

https://psmag.com/environment/california-must-better-prepare-for-future-fires

 

Forest management debate

(KTVU) Heather Holmes, Nov. 12

In a live interview, Bill Stewart, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, said,

“It was actually on the private land that we saw better performance in terms of being able to put out the fire quicker and a lot less smoke being produced. There is a package of vegetation management and fire suppression on private lands that have proved to be more effective than what's being used on federal land.

“What we found is about half the difference comes from the private land managers do more aggressive timber harvesting and some of that profit they spend to reduce the shrubs and fuels that are on the ground because they have that cashflow. They're protecting their long-term assets. The other half is CALFIRE is much more aggressive when it comes to fire suppression in forests or shrublands.

http://www.ktvu.com/news/372545595-video

 

Trump's Misleading Claims About California's Fire ‘Mismanagement'

(New York Times) Kendra Pierre-Louis, Nov. 12

…Mr. Trump is suggesting that forest management played a role, but California's current wildfires aren't forest fires.

“These fires aren't even in forests,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

…“We have vulnerable housing stock already out there on the landscape. These are structures that were often built to building codes from earlier decades and they're not as fire resistant as they could be,” Dr. Moritz said. “This issue of where and how we built our homes has left us very exposed to home losses and fatalities like these.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/us/politics/fact-check-trump-california-fire-tweet.html

 

California's year-round wildfire threat: Why aren't communities doing more?

(SF Chronicle) Peter Fimrite and Kurtis Alexander Nov. 10,

…“To have a president come out and say it's all because of forest management is ridiculous. It completely ignores the dynamic of what's going on around us.” said LeRoy Westerling, a climate and fire scientist at UC Merced, who blamed the increasing number of fires on rising temperatures and more variable precipitation, leading to longer spells of dry weather.

…“It's like a tragic replay of last year, with strong winds in both Northern California and Southern California blowing fire,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara, recalling the 2017 Wine Country fires and the Thomas Fire, which burned through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in December.

…“We had a lot of discussion after the fires last year about the liability issue with utilities, but it's interesting to see what didn't happen,” Moritz said. “Nobody has talked about mapping neighborhoods and homes in fire-prone areas like they do in flood plain hazard zones, engineering resilience into communities, or building a little smarter.”

…Everybody agrees the situation is dire. Fire officials blame shorter winters, hotter temperatures and drier vegetation, but very little is being done to improve the situation, said Scott Stevens, a professor of fire science at UC Berkeley.

“There is an under-appreciation of fire risk in a lot of communities,” Stevens said. “It feels like we can do better at allowing local communities to access information, reduce their vulnerability and understand their vulnerability a little bit more.”

Stevens urged the creation of cooperative programs at his and other universities that would allow local government officials to collaborate with fire experts on safety planning.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/california-wildfires/article/California-s-year-round-wildfire-threat-Why-13379734.php

 

California's most destructive wildfire should not have come as a surprise

(LA Times) Bettina Boxall and Paige St. John

…“We have these Santa Ana-like events happening in places that are appearing to catch people by surprise,” said Max Moritz, a cooperative extension wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara's Bren School. “But they shouldn't be catching people by surprise.”

“These are areas that have burned before,” he said. “And if we were to go back and do the wind mapping, we would find that at some intervals, these areas are prone to these north and northeasterly Santa Ana-like events.”

… “We have all kinds of tools to help us do this smarter, to build in a more sustainable way and to co-exist with fire,” he said. “But everybody throws up their hands and says, ‘Oh, all land-use planning is local. You can't tell people that they can't build there.' And the conversation stops right there.”

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-camp-fire-science-20181110-story.html

Traffic is backed up on Pacific Coast Highway as residents evacuate Malibu as a smoke plume from the Woolsey Fire rises in the background. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Posted on Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 1:33 PM
Tags: Bill Stewart (4), Greg Giusti (6), Keith Gilless (1), Max Moritz (15), Susie Kocher (10), wildfire (116)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Catastrophic wildfires and climate change lead to growing acceptance of ‘pyrosilviculture’

For millennia, fires periodically burned through California forests, thinning trees, reducing shrubbery and clearing out downed branches and debris. Without periodic fire, the forests became more dense, with spaces between large trees filling in with a thick carpet of duff, seedlings and shrubs.

As a result, today's forests are prone to more intense and damaging fires, like the Rim Fire, King Fire, and — most recently — the Camp Fire in Butte County. These fires are burning with unprecedented severity and speed, threatening large swaths of forest, towns, and even urban areas.

The Camp Fire in Butte County on Nov. 8, 2018. (Photo: NASA)

Using fire as part of forest management is not a new concept. Native Americans were known to burn brush to open up hunting grounds and clear shrubbery for gathering. Decades ago, iconic Berkeley forestry professor Harold Biswell said, “Fire in the Sierra Nevada is as important as rain.”

Competing forces, however, pushed foresters and fire officials toward fire prevention and suppression, particularly the cataclysmic fires of the early 20th century that leveled entire towns and left dozens of residents and firefighters dead. The fear of out-of-control blazes and the perceived damage to timber resources launched a war on fire that has lasted a hundred years. Some forest managers are urgently trying to negotiate a truce.

Making peace with fire and turning it into a useful tool, rather than a raging threat, was the objective of an October meeting in Shaver Lake of UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources scientists, Southern California Edison forest managers, CALFIRE officials and U.S. Forest Service representatives.

Participants in the pyrosilviculture training gather at a recent prescribed burn site near Shaver Lake.

The event also raised awareness of “pyrosilviculture,” a new forest management term coined by UC fire scientist Rob York to emphasize the importance of fire in silviculture, the management of forests for wood.

Forests have myriad benefits – recreational, environmental and economic. Nature lovers value the whisper of pine trees in the wind and green shade over hiking trails and ski slopes. Owls, bears, deer and other wildlife make their homes among firs, pines, oaks and cedars. Forests stabilize mountain slopes, which store water as snow for agriculture and drinking. People build their homes, businesses and schools out of the planks and boards cut from the straight, soft wood of conifer trees.

The value of California forest products was about $429 million in 2017, according to the USDA. Because fires can damage and destroy trees, the timber industry has historically been reluctant to use fire as a tool. That's changing.

“Fire is such an important ecological process, you can't manage for timber without fire,” York said.

York is the manager of the Blodgett Forest Research Station, UC Berkeley's 4,000-acre mixed conifer and oak forest near Georgetown where researchers study forest management practices for increasing timber yield while taking advantage of fire to enhance forest health and make forest stands more resilient to wildfire.

Controlled burning can be used to treat fuels and reverse these trends, but it has been inhibited by a number of barriers, including landowners' concerns about liability, risk aversion among fire management agencies, narrow burn windows, air quality limitations and other regulatory challenges. Now, public demand for prescribed fires is growing.

“I believe what moved the needle was, for several years in a row, there were high-severity fires in the news,” York said. “Wildfires were in the pubic zeitgeist. People began asking, ‘Why aren't we doing more prescribed fire?'”

Climate change is also intensifying the interest among the public and silviculture professionals. Because California is getting warmer and fire seasons are growing longer, high-severity fires are expected to increase.

“There would logically be a tipping point. Even though we reduce the growth of trees when we use fire, if it can prevent the loss of the forest entirely, it would be meeting the timber objective,” York said.

The vast tree die-off during the 2011-2016 drought was another jarring sign that the Sierra Nevada ecosystem is out of balance.

The U.S. Forest Service, which manages 20 million acres of forest in California, is using prescribed fire to reduce fire risk on federal forestlands, but scientists say it's not nearly enough to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. CAL FIRE is ramping up its controlled burn efforts, but it will take time to address far-reaching areas of overgrown forestlands. The agency sometimes uses mechanical measures such as mastication and chaining before burning to pre-treat fuels and prepare units for burning.

“We need to work around communities first, and then move out to the wider landscape,” said CAL FIRE division chief Jim McDougald. “If a prescribed fire moves into a subdivision and burns houses, we take 100 steps back.”

UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor Susie Kocher. (Photo: @UCsierraforest)
UC Cooperative Extension is working with private landowners to encourage more prescribed burning to reduce fire risk, protect communities and timber. UCCE forestry and natural resources advisor Susie Kocher coordinated training sessions this year in four mountain communities. The sessions included local fire history and current fire research, prescribed fire permitting and legal considerations, fire weather forecasting and online tools, air quality and smoke management, fire terms and fire behavior, burn plan development, burn unit preparation and fire tools and equipment.

“Burning is a key element of forestland management and it can be safe if done properly,” Kocher said. “We provide classroom instruction and invite participants to join a live prescribed fire at Blodgett Forest as part of their training so they become familiar with the process.”

At the training sessions, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson said that in some cases, private landowners can conduct burns themselves. In her hometown in Trinity County, many ranchers and landowners conduct small broadcast burns to reduce fuels and improve forage. These burns are typically quite small and usually conducted in the winter.

“This can be a good option for landowners who wish to burn small areas, but we need other options for bigger, more complex burns” Quinn-Davidson said.

In other parts of the country, landowners have formed Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs) that allow landowners to work with neighbors and other community members on controlled burns, sharing equipment and labor while developing skills. The PBA model provides a low-cost, grassroots option for prescribed burning, and empowers landowners to work together, and with other key experts and partners, to bring fire back to the landscape, says Quinn-Davidson.

“People are desperate to do something about fire, and the PBA model gives them an option to actively engage with each other and with fire as a tool—it's very empowering,” said Quinn-Davidson.

UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson.

 

Posted on Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 8:31 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

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