Posts Tagged: Bill Stewart
UCCE experts provide scientific fire information to media
The raging fires sparked during August have raised the visibility of UC fire scientists, who provide critical information to state and national media. Below are a sampling of stories and comments offered by UC Cooperative Extension experts:
Forest management needed
“When we started suppressing fires 100 years ago all the time, we actually allowed a huge buildup of fuels and debris,” said UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor Susie Kocher, who is based in the Lake Tahoe region.
She is an advocate for requiring residents to clean up the extra fuel — grasses, trees, shrubs and clutter — around their homes, making them fire ready, and for more prescribed burns.
“There's a need for more frequent, low-severity fire across the landscape, so that we wouldn't have quite so much explosion in the burning in the fields that we have currently,” Kocher said.
In August, the state and federal government agreed to clean up 1 million acres by 2025, with practices such as prescribed burns. Part of that agreement also included a commitment to create a 20-year plan by next year to prioritize areas for forest-thinning. But even this plan is sliver of what's needed to protect California from devastating future wildfires.
“I think it's a good indication they're paying attention now and that we're moving in the right direction,” said Michael Jones a UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor in Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma counties. “My hope is that once we start with a million, then it's really easy to scale up to multiple millions.”Capitol Public Radio, Sept. 3, 2020
Taking steps to reduce fire danger
“There are things that we can and should be doing to address the fire problem and fire risk in California, and to get ahead of it, and to make ourselves more resilient,” said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension and director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council.
Quinn-Davidson said she was encouraged when California Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Forest Service officials announced an agreement this month on a joint strategy to reduce wildfire risks.
“We need more coordination and more collaboration among all of the different groups who work on these issues,” Quinn-Davidson said. “The number one thing we need is more coordinated vision around what fire is going to look like in California, how people can live with fire.”
Arizona Central, Aug. 28, 2020
What's at stake
“Every part of California is receptive to wildfire,” said Yana Valachovic, a UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor on the North Coast. “Especially in a year like this, when we had a pretty dry winter and spring, so a lot of the state is in drought conditions.”
Sacramento Bee, Aug. 27, 2020
Fires are getting worse
"They are certainly getting worse over time," said Susan Kocher, a forestry advisor at the University of California-Cooperative Extension Central Sierra. "We burned fewer acres in wildfires in 2019 than 2018, but overall, yes, the trend is progressing to burning more and more acres at high severity over time and affecting more people through evacuations and damages to homes and communities."
Yana Valachovic, a forest advisor and county director at University of California Cooperative Extension–Humboldt and Del Norte counties, said that 100 years of fire suppression is catching up to the state as well. Valachovic said before California was settled by white pioneers around the gold rush in the 1850s, Native Americans frequently used fire as a tool —for example, to clean out an infestation of bugs in acorns.
"Fire can be really important for stimulating biodiversity and creating more food sources," Valachovic said. "After years of suppressing those fires, now we get an ignition, whether human-caused or lightning-caused or power lines down, and you have an accumulation of materials that have accumulated over various time periods, but the quantity of fuel is substantially greater than it was historically."
Salon, Aug. 25
“At the statewide level, we do get into this mode where we start wondering where the biggest loss is going to be, what's the highest priority, and that is where the resources are going to go,” said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire specialist with the UC Cooperative Extension.
Los Angeles Times, Aug. 24, 2020
Q: Beyond widely accepted reasons for wildfires growing in size, severity, and frequency, why hasn't California made more progress in slowing the trend?
Lenya Quinn-Davidson: Our fire management and our land management haven't kept pace with the scientific understanding we have of fire in California. There's this fear of active land management – prescribed burning, thinning – that sometimes gets in the way of us making good choices. If we're not protecting the resources we care about and we're not taking action, then we will continue to lose them to big fires.
Bill Stewart: Many of the fires around the greater Bay Area are in areas that didn't burn 30 years ago because they were cattle ranches. They had cattle on them, and that helped reduce fuels. Now those areas have turned into parks or 5- and 10-acre residential lots. So much development has been about what's aesthetically pleasing, so we've ended up with a landscape that, during hot and dry seasons, there's a lot more fuel and it becomes a much riskier situation.
Q: The era of megafires in California has been decades in the making. How can public agencies begin to counter that over the next few years?
Quinn-Davidson: We need to create a more robust and sustainable fire workforce. Right now, they're so beat down at the end of fire season – especially as fire season is getting longer in California – that there's basically no capacity the rest of the year to do any of the proactive stuff we need to be doing. So we need to create more jobs, and those jobs need to be dedicated to fire management and land management.
Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 24, 2020
Historical fire suppression
“We have put out fires for 100 years. Now we are paying the price,” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at UC Berkeley. “It will take a while to make these forests healthy again. But it's absolutely possible.”
Stephens, the UC fire scientist, estimates that before the Gold Rush, roughly 4.5 million acres a year in California burned. By the 1950s and 1960s, that was down to about 250,000 acres a year. In recent years, it has approached 2 million acres a year.
San Jose Mercury News, Aug 23, 2020
Limited firefighting resources
At the statewide level, we do get into this mode where we start wondering where the biggest loss is going to be, what's the highest priority, and that is where the resources are going to go,” said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire expert with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Los Angeles Times, Aug. 22, 2020
Smoke impact on fresh produce
According to a 2018 preliminary UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma study, smoke from 2017 fires had little impact on local Sonoma County produce.
Based on preliminary findings, "...produce safety was not significantly affected by the fires and may be mitigated by washing produce."
The Californian, August 21, 2020
U.S. President's threat to cut FEMA funding to California chided
U.S President Donald Trump criticized forest management in California and threatened to cut off federal emergency funding this week, eliciting confusion and condemnation, reported Ryan Bort in Rolling Stone.
The International Association of Fire Fighters released a statement calling Trump's move "disgraceful." "While our president is tweeting on the sidelines in DC, our fellow Americans 3,000 miles to the west are mourning loved ones, entire communities have been wiped off the map and thousands of people are still trying to figure out where they are going to call home."
The reporter wrote that the president is fixated on the state's role in causing forest fires, but the federal government owns the majority of forested land in California. Moreover, the devastating Camp and Woolsey fires of 2018 were not forest fires; they were wildland-urban interface fires, according to UC Cooperative Extension wildfire specialist Max Moritz.
"In these environments, as we've seen, it can be the homes themselves that are burning and spreading fire to other nearby homes. Managing vegetation can thus have relatively little effect on fire spread," Moritz said.
The federal government shutdown itself is having a major impact on wildfire prevention, reported Ezra David Romero on Capital Public Radio.
Typically, forest managers analyze their budgets and plan for the next fire season during the winter. But the government shutdown has suspended these efforts because the U.S. Forest Service - which has been furloughed since Dec. 22 - plays a big role.
Crews in Redwood National Park are “just sitting on their hands,” according to UC Cooperative Extension fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson in Humboldt County, because they can't work on federal land during the shutdown. She said that workers were “excited to do more” on the heels of the state's worst fire season in history. “This is just taking the wind out of their sails."
The shutdown is also causing challenges for UCCE forestry specialist Bill Stewart. He's working on collaboration between the UC system and the Forest Service to streamline the cost of preventing wildfires. But the shutdown is making the five-year project, which has end-of-January deadlines, difficult to accomplish.
“Everything has come to a total stop,” Stewart said. “They are not even allowed to answer their emails. If this continues it may be hard to restart for this next season.”
December news clips
Franz Niederholzer - 2019 New Year's Profile
(Appeal-Democrat), Dec 31
Keeping Up with Navel Infections
(Dairy Herd Management) Emre Gürdal and Noelia Silva del Rio, Dec. 31
How Do Wildfires Start?
(Live Science) Donavyn Coffey, Dec. 28
…In other words, "a source [of heat] hits receptive fuel that's dry enough to burn," said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire analyst for the University of California Cooperative Extension forestry program in Northern California. In the right conditions, those three factors are all it takes to set a wildfire in motion.
…However, ignition is only the beginning. For a spark to grow into a sustained wildfire, there must be a perfect combination of factors, such as "dry conditions and really strong winds," Quinn-Davidson told Live Science. And because of climate change, dry conditions are lasting longer and, in turn, causing longer fire seasons.
Analyzing The Use of Selective Dry Cow Therapy
(Dairy Herd Management) Fernanda C. Ferreira and Emmanuel Okello, Dec 27
Private woodlands lost to California wildfire — and may not be replaced
(SF Chronicle) Peter Fimrite Dec. 25,
…It costs about $400 per acre to reforest land, said Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley who has studied forest restoration programs after fires.
“A lot of (small property owners) ... don't have the cash or professionals to do the job,” he said. They “take a big financial hit when their forests are caught in a wildfire.”
…Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension, said wholesale clearing is not always necessary. The rush to clear the land, he said, can result in healthy trees being cut down.
“Many trees can survive pretty bad crown scorch, so there's generally no urgency to get them out, or there shouldn't be, anyway,” said Moritz, an adjunct professor at UC Santa Barbara. “This is especially true of species that resprout, like several of the oaks and also redwoods.”
Get to know your wasps: University of California entomologist addresses misconceptions
(Press Democrat) Kate Frey, Dec. 21
Rachael Long, a University of California Cooperative Extension entomologist and crop adviser, recently told me a story about three wasps that people frequently encounter around their homes and often have misconceptions about.
Gene Editing Finds its Way to the Farm
(Dairy Herd Management) Clinton Griffiths, Dec. 21
…Alison Van Eenennaam, animal geneticist, University of California-Davis, says edits that create polled herds will soon be common.
“It's kind of like a pair of molecular scissors, if you will, that you can tell to go and cut the DNA at a very precise location in the genome,” Van Eenennaam explains. “What that enables you to do is go in and very precisely alter one particular gene of the thousands of genes that make up the genome, and you can introduce useful genetic variations.”
Farm Bill Set to Bring Several Benefits to California Growers
(AgNet West) Brian German, Dec. 19
...“There's some really good stuff in it for California, I mean first of all, getting a farm bill is fantastic,” said Vice President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Glenda Humiston. “Some really good things for beginning farmers and ranchers, and veterans' efforts in ag. One thing that's really potentially exciting for California in the rural development title is increasing the eligibility of communities up to 50,000 for some of the programs.”
Gene-edited farm animals are coming. Will we eat them?
(Washington Post) Carolyn Y. Johnson, Dec. 17
...“Right now. This is exciting, right this minute,” animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam said as she waited for a tiny blob of a fetus to materialize on a laptop screen on a recent afternoon at the Beef Barn, part of the University of California at Davis's sprawling agricultural facilities for teaching and research.
Commentary: Is Atascadero prepared?
(Atascadero News) Ray Weymann, Dec. 14
…But often, even 10 feet from a house takes one into a neighbor's property. Whether this means mandating more aggressive tree and brush clearing, and reevaluation of building codes for new and existing structures, is something the new council should consider, availing themselves with input from our local fire department but also from people like Jack Cohen. Another wildfire expert, Max Moritz, suggests that governments must be more aggressive in not allowing development in areas especially vulnerable to wildfire.
Ceres Imaging unveils cumulative stress index
(Successful Farming) Laurie Bedord, Dec. 14
...“Findings over the last four years show that the average Ceres Imaging conductance measurement from its imagery over the season has provided the best correlation with applied water,” says Blake Sanden, a Kern County University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser. “While there's no perfect predictor of final yield, Ceres Imaging aerial sensing of canopy plant stress has a significant relationship with final yield.”
New Farm Bill Provides Funds For Research In California ‘Ag,' But No Big Boons
(Capital Public Radio) Julia Mitric, Dec. 13
…"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Glenda Humiston, vice president of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Humiston is pleased that California will get an increase of $25 million a year for research of specialty crops, agricultural jargon for fruits, vegetables and nuts, as opposed to commodity crops like soybeans, corn and wheat. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from adapting farming to the effects of climate change to finding cures for California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.
Can California Improve Forest Management And Prevent Wildfires Without Going Broke?
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra Romero, Dec. 13
...But can California expand programs like forest-thinning and controlled burns and manage its forests on the cheap?
UC Berkeley forestry specialist Bill Stewart says yes. “There's certain areas that it is going to cost you $700 an acre, but other acres you can treat for $50 or $100 an acre,” Stewart said.
Technology advances impact production efficiency
(AgriNews) Martha Blum, Dec. 13
“I'm passionate about genetics and sticking up for technology because if we don't stand up for it, we're not going to have access to it,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at University of California, Davis.
“The livestock industry doesn't have access to GMOs because of the debate around plant GMOs,” Van Eenennaam said during a presentation at the 2018 American Agri-Women Convention.
Lindcove squeezes 100 citrus varieties into one tasting
(Sun Gazette) Dec. 12
The University of California citrus research center swings open its doors this week to give farmers and the public the opportunity to view and taste more than 100 varieties of citrus.
Can Rakes Save Forests? Yes, As Long As You Have A Drip Torch In The Other Hand, UC ANR Says
(Sierra Sun-Times) Susie Kocher, Rob York, and Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Dec. 12
Have shears, will travel
(California Bountiful) Ching Lee
…Sheep owners, particularly those with small flocks, have had trouble finding shearers for years—and the smaller their flock, the harder it is to get someone to shear for them because shearers are paid by the number of animals they shear, said John Harper, a UC livestock and natural resources advisor who has run the annual shearing program for nearly 25 years.
Could legalizing cannabis help the environment?
(Physics World) Kate Ravilious, Dec. 11
Using high resolution satellite imagery for the years 2012 and 2016, Van Butsic from the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues found a boom in cultivation of cannabis in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties. By zooming right in, the researchers could identify the distinctive shape of the cannabis plants, the regular pattern in which the crop is planted, and the greenhouses perched in unusual places.
...“The chances of environmental damage are much greater in these regions because of the high potential for erosion, which threatens water quality, high potential for using water directly from headwaters, and the need to build roads to access these farms,” says Butsic.
What Does It Take To Defend Your Home Against A Mega Wildfire Like The Camp Fire? Here's How One Couple Survived
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Dec. 11
...Earlier this year, University of California system forest advisor Yana Valachovic toured the Carr Fire burn area in Redding.
“What surprised me there was how many of the stucco homes were lost and they were surrounded by green lawn,” Valachovic recalled. “What the mechanism of entry was is that they had a ring of vegetation right around the outside of their house.”
Susie Kocher, a forest adviser for the Lake Tahoe region with the UC Cooperative Extension, often works with homeowners that live within the Angora Fire burn area. That blaze destroyed about 250 homes in Lake Tahoe in 2008. A decade later, Kocher said people still aren't properly preparing their homes.
“There's still a lot of flammable plants planted right under picture windows,” Kocher said, adding that people have almost set themselves up for failure, “perhaps in the mistaken belief that they are kind of safe now because there's no big trees.”
Wildfire scientists brace for hotter, more flammable future as Paradise lies in ashes
(CNN) Bill Weir, Dec. 10
…"Well, my colleague Katharine Hayhoe says climate change is like gravity," says Dr. Faith Kearns. "Climate change doesn't really care if you believe in it or not. It's reality. We have gravity, we have climate change."
Are Your Bananas at Risk?
(BYU Radio) Top of Mind, Dec. 10
Guest: Norman C. Ellstrand, Distinguished Professor of Genetics, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside
...Here in the US, there's only one kind of banana in the supermarket – sweet, yellow, no seeds, about as long as your hand. It's a variety called Cavendish and it dominates the international banana market. Which turns out to be a big problem.
Jeff Mitchell: Conservation No-Till Is One Option For Water Conservation
(Cal Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Dec. 10
Jeff Mitchell is a Cropping Systems Specialist at UC Davis, based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. He has devoted his 19 years to improving nitrogen and water use efficiencies in food, feed, fuel and fiber in no-till cropping systems.
Solano 4-H schedules Fairfield open house
(Fairfield Daily Republic) Susan Hiland, Dec. 9
The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program will host a 4-H open house from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the University of California Cooperative Extension Office, 501 Texas St.
California State Fair Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition opens Jan. 8
(Lake Co News) Dec. 8
…The California State Fair is proud to announce the head judge for the 2019 competition, Mr. Paul Vossen. Vossen will employ his expertise and experience at the California State Fair olive oil judging to lead the team of 15 Judges and ensure a fair and ethical judging process.
With more than 30 years of experience in the field as a University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Sonoma County, Paul Vossen offers practical advice to large commercial ventures and hobby farmers alike for clients around the world.
Getting the Facts Straight on Dairies
(California Dairy) Dec. 7
The inaugural California Dairy Sustainability Summit in Sacramento last month was a big hit. Conference presentations not only focused on what California dairy producers can do to increase their sustainability efforts, but also on how producers can better share their stories and correct some of the common misconceptions that have been circulating the public. Check out this video with Frank Mitloehner, Air Quality Specialist from the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, who shared the facts, and read more about it in California Dairy Magazine.
Why Californians Were Drawn Toward the Fire Zones
(Wall St Journal) Jeffrey Ball, Dec. 7
…Lax building codes are at the base of the problem. Even in California, which has some of the toughest such rules in the country, they often aren't adequate or adequately enforced. The codes often dictate the use of fire-retardant materials in house construction but typically say nothing about how a development must be situated on the landscape—and that can help determine whether that development will burn in a fire, says Max Moritz, a cooperative-extension wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “So the developers are able to come in, propose something, and often, without too much oversight, walk away after having built something in a dangerous place,” he says. “And we pick up the tab.”
Cutting down Christmas trees on public land is good for forest management: expert
(KTVU) Lisa Fernandez, Dec. 7
A forestry advisor for the University of California is a big proponent of cutting down Christmas trees on public land as an inexpensive, family-friendly holiday ritual and a way to thin the forests of excessive small trees.
Susie Kocher, who works for the UC Cooperative Extension, has been trekking to the U.S. Forest Service land for the last two decades -- saw and $10 permit in hand -- to cut down her own white fir.
Researchers study how to enrich soil
(Appeal-Democrat) Ruby Larson, Dec. 6
Soil health and research on using cover crops were discussed by farmers, researchers and others at the University of California Cooperative Extension's Soil Health and Cover Crop Field Day on Thursday morning.
Dozens gathered for a presentation on the Healthy Soils Project, which the local UCCE is participating in. The project focuses on managing soil health, changes in soil carbon and reducing greenhouse gases.
…Amber Vinchesi and Sarah Light, agronomy adviser for UCCE Sutter-Yuba, gave a demonstration on how they would test for greenhouse gasses during the course of the project.
Climate Extremes: the New Norm
(Santa Barbara Independent) Laura Capps, Dec. 6
...“We need to change our perspective to one of co-existing with fire instead of fighting it,” said Dr. Max Moritz, a University of California wildfire scientist. “Fire isn't going away anytime soon. We need to locate and build our communities accordingly so that we reduce our vulnerability over the long term to this essential and inevitable natural process that is wildfire.”
Will More Permits To Chop Down Christmas Trees Help Thin California Forests And Prevent Wildfires? (AUDIO)
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Dec 5
In a patch of forest a few miles from Lake Tahoe's shore, Susie Kocher and her family are crunching through the snow to find a Christmas tree.
…"It's a great win-win solution,” said Kocher, who is also a forest advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension for the Lake Tahoe area. “You get the public out in the forest, you do good work reducing the density of the trees."
Wildland fire research and impacts on nut orchards
(Western Farm Press) Logan Hawkes, Dec 5
..So far, tree nut damages or other agricultural losses in the deadly Camp Fire are unknown according to UCANR Sustainable Orchard Farm Advisor Luke Milliron in Butte County.
Fruit tree owners get free lesson in pruning
(The Californian) John Karlik, Dec 5
Even those with the greenest thumbs may need some guidance when it comes to pruning trees. The University of California Cooperative Extension office is here to help again with its annual fruit tree pruning demonstrations on Dec. 12 and 13.
Starting at noon both days in the orchard of the cooperative's office, ag adviser Mohammad Yaghmour will show attendees how to trim back trees including apple, apricot, cherry and almond as well as grapevines.
Camp Fire Impacted Local Prescribed Fire Training
(My Mother Lode) Tracey Petersen, Dec 5
...The 20 participants were to get hands-on fire experience to better understand the art and science of fire management and ecology. However, organizer and Natural Resources Advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension – Central Sierra Susan Kocher relays that due to the explosion of the Camp Fire no flames could be ignited for the training because the required back up resources were called to battle the mega blaze. She adds it is an ongoing problem regarding using prescribed burns for fire prevention. “I really think it shows just our exact dilemma. It's hard to get ahead of disasters because you're busy responding to disasters,” advised Kocher. “So, we just need to do everything we can to try and burn at all times of year to try to get ahead of these tragic wildfires that are happening.”
The New Abnormal: A Town Hall on California's Fires and the Future
(Commonwealth Club) Dec. 4, 2018
… To address some of these critical and urgent questions, please join The Commonwealth Club for a special free town hall on California's fires and what can be done in the short and long term to prepare for them.
J. Keith Gilless, Chair, California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection; Professor of Forest Economics, UC Berkeley
Thom Porter, Chief of Strategic Planning, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
Kurtis Alexander, Water, Wildfire and Climate Writer, San Francisco Chronicle
Maggi Kelly, Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management
Valley's Gold: Food Safety
(Valley's Gold) Dec. 4
Learn about the economic engine that drives the region, Agriculture. With host Ryan Jacobsen
UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Specialist Elizabeth Lopez shares food safety tips and tools in this PBS episode starting at the 18:32 mark.
San Diego County wants to build 10,000 new homes in fire-prone areas
(San Diego Union Tribune) Joshua Emerson Smith, Dec. 3
…What these building codes and other rules don't take into account is whether a particular project should be built at all, said Max Moritz, a cooperative extension specialist in wildfire at the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara.
“There's 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 added. “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.”
California is managing its forests — but is the president managing its federal lands?
(NBC News) James Rainey, Dec. 2
...Scott Stephens, a University of California, Berkeley professor of fire science, said the fire cataclysms of the last two years seem to have ended a long era of inattention.
“We will start to change the trajectory,” he said, “so we won't have tragedies like we had in Paradise.”
Subfreezing temperatures predicted for early Monday in Modesto area
(Modesto Bee) Deke Farrow, Dec. 2
...The University of California Cooperative Extension in Sacramento County offers more
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.
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."
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.”
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
August 2018 News Clips 8/1-8/15
UC: Tariffs could cost fruit, nut industries over $3 billion
(Farm Press) Aug. 15
A new report released by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center estimates the higher tariffs could cost major U.S. fruit and nut industries $2.64 billion per year in exports to countries imposing the higher tariffs, and as much as $3.34 billion by reducing prices in alternative markets.
Evacuation priorities: Save people first, then livestock
(Ag Alert) Kathy Coatney, Aug. 15
"It's generally too difficult to get trucks out on such a short notice," said Glenn Nader, University of California Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor emeritus for Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties.
… Carissa Koopmann Rivers, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor for Siskiyou County, said the Klamathon fire, first reported in early July, devastated the town of Hornbrook, which is situated in a cattle-producing area.
…Ricky Satomi, UCCE forestry advisor for Shasta, Trinity and Siskiyou counties, said if there's a wildfire and a person has advanced notice, there are several things that can be done to save buildings before evacuating.
Tariffs Could Cost California Growers Billions
(Growing Produce) Christina Herrick, Aug. 15
A new study from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center finds that tariffs on 10 fruit and tree nut exports alone are estimated to cost the U.S. $3.4 billion annually.
Interior Secretary: Environmental policies, poor forest management to blame for wildfires
(Circa) Leandra Bernstein, Aug. 14
…"Together, poor land management, poor land use planning and the onset of climate change, we have created the perfect environment for the perfect firestorm in California. It's completely expected and it's going to get worse," explained Dr. Kate Wilkin, a fire scientist at the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Looming Chlorpyrifos Ban Has ‘Natural' Pesticide Makers Buzzing
(Bloomberg) Tiffany Stecker, Aug. 14
...Alternatives may be available, but they lack the punch of chlorpyrifos, which kills multiple pests at once, Beth Grafton-Cardwell, a scientist working with citrus farmers as part of the University of California Cooperative Extension, told Bloomberg Environment.
Fierce and Unpredictable: How Wildfires Became Infernos
(New York Times) Jim Robbins, Aug. 13
…Triple-digit temperatures “preheat the fuels, and it makes them much more receptive to igniting,” said Scott L. Stephens, a fire ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
In California's new wildfire reality, facing the need for periodic fires to clear fuel
(SF Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, Aug. 13
While misguided forest- management policies are just one reason that fire has become more devastating, a warming climate and more development in California's wildlands also contribute, making planned burning vital, said wildfire specialist Max Moritz with UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“We need to become more comfortable with fire as a tool,” he said. “Prescribed fire could do a lot of good, restoring these forests to healthy conditions and reducing the fire hazard.”
8/13/18 Trade Tensions
(NewsTalk 780 KOH) Jon Sanchez Show, Aug. 13
Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agriculture Issues Center, discussed the impact of trade tariffs on agriculture and U.S. economy with Jon Sanchez
UCCE Manure Nitrogen Study Update in Dairy Feed Crops
(California Dairy Magazine) Aug. 10
It takes time for the nitrogen found in dairy manure water to become available to feed crops out in the field, and as dairy producers don't want to under or over fertilize their feed crops, the UC Cooperative Extension is conducting a research trial to find out more regarding how manure water interacts in the soil with plant root systems. Watch this brief interview UC Agronomy Advisor Nicholas Clark as he summarizes a recent presentation he shared at the Golden State Dairy Management Conference.
Trees vital as heat waves ravage Southland, experts and L.A. officials say
(Hub LA) Hugo Guzman, Aug. 10
…Researchers with the University of California Cooperative Extension are helping do just that. In partnership with the United States Forest Service, researchers there have launched a 20-year study to identify trees that can withstand higher temperatures and lower rainfall. Native trees such as the Catalina Cherry and Ironwood trees, along with imports like Ghost Gum and Acacia trees, could form the future of L.A.'s canopy.
Elkus Ranch brings kids to nature
(Half Moon Bay Review) Max Paik, Aug. 8
“I think it's important that the children get to see what it takes to care for farm animals … from the cute to the somewhat smelly,” said Igor Lacan, environmental horticulture adviser with the University of California Cooperative Extension, which runs the ranch.
What These Wildfires Say About Climate Change
(OnPoint NPR) Eric Westervelt, Aug. 8
- Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Cal Fire, the state's fire agency.
- Ryan Lillis, reporter for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered most of Northern California's fires for the last 12 years. (@Ryan_Lillis)
- Lenya Quinn-Davidson, area fire adviser with the University of California's Cooperative Extension, which works with counties and communities in the state on managing the threat of wildfires. Northern California coordinator of the California Fire Science Consortium. (@lenyaqd)
Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at
Pennsylvania State University. Co-author of "The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy." (@MichaelEMann)
Drought may be increasing camel cricket numbers
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Aug. 8
A few years ago, University of California viticulture and pest management advisors noticed unusual leaf symptoms in certain Napa County hillside vineyards that were right next to oak woodlands.
As described by the UC Cooperative Extension's Monica Cooper and Lucia Varela, the feeding activity they noted in April 2015 resulted in a “lace-like” appearance to damaged leaves. Then last year, in March, they observed feeding damage to expanding buds.
… Where vineyards have come into play is when they were situated on hillsides next to oak woodlands and mixed species of white alders, madrone, California bay, and Douglas fir, according to Varela, a north coast integrated pest management advisor, and Rhonda Smith, a UCCE viticulture advisor.
Yes, humans have made wildfires like the Carr fire worse. Here's how.
(Washington Post) Sarah Kaplan, Aug. 8
…Many forests in the western United States are “fire adapted” said Scott Stephens, a fire ecologist at the University of California at Berkeley. Natural wildfires every 5, 10 or 20 years help clear debris from the forest floor and make room for stronger, healthier trees.
…Wildfires are as unstoppable as hurricanes, Stephens said — and much like hurricanes, increasingly inevitable as the climate changes. “But you could do a lot more when you're getting ready for fire to inevitably occur,” he said. By building with fire-safe materials, establishing buffer zones between ecosystems and communities, and better caring for forests before fire season starts, some of the destructiveness of fires could be mitigated, Stephens said.
The staggering scale of California's wildfires
(New York Times) Lisa Friedman, Jose A. Del Real, Aug. 8
…Lisa: Mr. Trump in his tweet referred to the longstanding dispute between California farmers and environmentalists over the allocation of the state's precious water resources. Both sides want more and Mr. Trump has embraced the arguments of the agriculture community.
But William Stewart, a forestry specialist at the University of California, Berkeley said leaving less water for fish would have no impact on amount available for fighting fires. That water comes from local streams and rivers, where water-dropping helicopters drop their buckets. Neither he nor other scientists could point to a scenario in which California's environmental laws have prevented or curbed the use of water to fight wildfires.
California giving out $170 million in cap-and-trade revenue to help prevent wildfires
(San Francisco Chronicle) Kimberly Veklerov, Aug. 8
…Groups in six Bay Area counties will get a combined $7.4 million. The biggest portion of that, $3.6 million, will go to UC Berkeley. The Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2016 withdrew what would have been an award of roughly the same amount to thin and remove eucalyptus trees in the East Bay hills after a lawsuit by conservation activists.
…Keith Gilless, chairman of Cal Fire, said the state needs to do much more vegetation management — activities like reducing hazardous plant fuels — to address wildfire risk.
“One of the things we need in California moving forward is striking a better balance between carbon sequestration in forests and the risk associated with that densely stocked carbon sequestration,” said Gilless, also a UC Berkeley professor of forest economics. “We need to figure out ways to do vegetation management that are socially acceptable with the smallest public subsidy possible.”
These California counties have the highest concentration of homes vulnerable to wildfire
(Sac Bee) Michael Finch II, Aug. 7
In the case of the northern counties, the risk will be higher because homes there often dispersed at the edge of a wildland area, said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a Eureka-based fire advisor for the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“Those areas that you mentioned are areas that have a lot of homes mixed into the wildland-urban interface — areas where there are a lot of homes that are edgy and in the forest and have a lot of fuel.”
Can More Logging Help Prevent California Wildfires?
(KQED) Forum, Aug. 7
Cal Fire officials announced yesterday that the Mendocino Complex fire grew to over 283,000 acres, making it the largest in state history. As wildfires across the state rage on, Governor Brown and some lawmakers are calling for increased forest thinning to lessen the threat posed by fires. Those in favor of logging say that removing trees and vegetation can help reduce a fire's intensity and make forests more resilient. Opponents say thinning does nothing to protect communities from fires and imperils species that depend on dense forests. We'll take up the debate.
Chad Hanson, director, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute ; co-author, "Nature's Phoenix: The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires"
Molly Peterson, reporter on assignment for KQED News
Scott Stephens, professor of fire science at the College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley
Rich Gordon, president and CEO, California Forestry Association, former assemblymember representing California's 21st district
Jim Wood, assemblymember for district 2, Sonoma County, a member of the Senate and Assembly conference committee on wildfire preparedness and response
Trump wants to clear more trees to halt fires. The feds need to spend more, experts say.
(Sac Bee) Emily Cadei and Kate Irby, Aug. 7
“I think for a number of years the feds were more ahead of this dilemma, at least in discussions,” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. But “I have to say right now, I think the state is moving ahead. It's certainly being more innovative, it's doing more policy work.”
Trump says California's water policies are making the wildfires worse. Is he right?
(Sac Bee) Dale Kasler, Aug. 6
William Stewart, a forestry management expert at UC Cooperative Extension, agreed. “The entity that's doing the worst job are the people working for him,” Stewart said, referring to Trump.
Stewart said the Carr Fire, which killed seven people and forced mass evacuations in and around Redding, started in shrub and grasslands west of the city, not in the forests. Only lately, after the threat to Redding abated, has the fire moved north onto Forest Service land and forested property owned by Sierra Pacific Industries, he said.
California Groundwater Law Means Big Changes Above Ground, Too
(Water Deeply) Matt Weiser, Aug. 6
The best groundwater recharge areas have certain soil types that are good at absorbing water. These areas have already been mapped by, among others, the California Soil Resource Lab at the University of California, Davis. [Tobi o'Geen's lab]
Cal Fire responds to President Trump's tweet about state wildfires
(ABC7) Rob McMillan, Aug. 6
Cal Fire and a researcher from UC Riverside responded to Donald Trump's tweet related to the state's wildfires on Monday.
"Thinning would be a good idea, but the question is how you thin properly," UC Riverside's Dr. Richard Minnich said.
"There are too many trees in the ground sucking the ground dry. That's one of the reasons you had so many trees die in the Sierras."
But Minnich says that there is plenty of water in California. Shasta is the biggest reservoir in the state and it's currently more than two-thirds full.
California Wildfires: It's a people problem
(East Bay Times) Lisa Krieger, Aug. 5
Even as fires rage across California, thousands of new homes are being built deeper into our flammable foothills and forests, as lethal as they are lovely.
A big reason why: It's harder to do controlled burns — one of the most effective fire suppression techniques — near residential areas, due to smoke concerns. Until the 1970's, fire suppression tended to minimize fire spread.
“If homes are sprinkled through the landscape, you take that key tool off the table,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with UC's Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources.
Report: Future climate could affect street trees
(Turlock Journal) Kristina Hacker, Aug. 3
Eighty-one years from now, Turlock's climate could resemble more of southeast California's high desert areas, according to a new report that says inland California municipalities should consider increasing temperatures due to climate change when planting street trees.
…"Urban foresters in inland cities of California should begin reconsidering their palettes of common street trees to prepare for warmer conditions expected in 2099 due to climate change," said the study's co-author, Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in the Bay Area.
Wildfires force California to reckon with a not-so-new normal
(Christian Science Monitor) Martin Kuz, Aug. 3
…The committee's focus on improving utility grid safety and examining the liability of power companies reflects the causes of several blazes in 2017. The absence of land use planning from its agenda suggests what Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, describes as a “political will problem.”
“If you want to keep communities safe, then you have to think about living differently, about where and how we build our communities,” he says. “But there's no bill in the legislature about that.”
Will smoke taint summer harvests in the Mother Lode?
(The Union Democrat) Giuseppe Ricapito, Aug. 3
Drift smoke from the Ferguson Fire has some Tuolumne County vintners and agriculturalists concerned about the commercial viability of the early fall grape harvest, but one forestry official with the University of California noted that the native wilderness of the Mother Lode has a developed adaptability to smoky conditions.
Susie Kocher, forestry and natural resources advisor with the University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Central Sierra Cooperative Extension, said that “smoke taint” of commercial agriculture was always a concern during fire season.
“It's grapes we worry about the most,” she said. “In the past there have been bad years when there was a lot of smoke where grapes were on the vine and wineries had to produce the smoky wine because of that effect.”
Coyote encounters expected to rise during heat and drought
(ABC 10) Jared Aarons, Allison Horn, Aug. 2
The record-breaking heat and drought are forcing animals, including coyotes, out of their natural habitats and closer to humans…
The University of California Coyote Catcher website tracks sightings and attacks. Their figures for 2018 show coyote incidents are down compared to last year. In 2017, there were 142 coyote attacks. More than halfway through 2018, San Diego is on track to stay below that number, with 64 attacks.
According to the website, there have been six reported pet deaths this year.
Backyard chickens are dying in droves in SoCal. Will disease spread to Valley?
(Fresno Bee) Robert Rodriguez, Aug. 2
Maurice Pitesky, a veterinarian and University of California extension specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, said backyard chicken owners should closely watch their flocks.
Symptoms include, sneezing, coughing, green watery diarrhea, neck twisting, paralysis, decreased egg production and swelling around the eyes and neck.
Growers prepare for smaller prune harvest
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Aug 2
…With guidance from University of California Cooperative Extension advisors, growers have been paying close attention to tree water stress and sugar levels in the weeks leading up to the harvest, which was expected to begin in about the third week of August.
… “It's probably going to vary a little bit because the cropping is really variable,” UCCE advisor emeritus Rick Buchner says of the prune crop. “Some of it is good and some is really light. We had a heck of a time pollinating them.”
…“Harvest can be a nerve-wracking time in the prune business,” UCCE advisors Franz Niederholzer and Wilbur Reil note in a California Dried Plum Board blog post. “The finish line – when the entire crop is in the bins – may be in sight, but here are still tough decisions to be made that influence your bottom line.”
…In general, harvest can be expected roughly 30 days after the first healthy fruit in an orchard starts changing color, UCCE orchard advisor Katherine Jarvis-Shean explains in a separate blog post. She urged growers to time their irrigation cut-off to improve dry-away ratios, reduce premature fruit drop and decrease shaker bark damage at harvest.
Researchers look at ways to improve onion yields
(Ag Alert) Padma Nagappan, Aug. 1
Jairo Diaz-Ramirez and five other scientists have recently completed year two of an irrigation trial for onions, testing furrow and drip irrigation, and found that their methods produced good results, without water distress or soil tension. They tested the Taipan variety of onions.