Chronicle op-ed questions fire prevention tactics
Stripping plants from swaths of land to create fire breaks may not be the best way to prevent wildfire damage, according to an op-ed article published in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday. Writer Ben Preston said the long-practiced fire management strategy opens space for invasive weed invasion, which could burn even hotter.
Research by fire scientists at universities all over the Western United States has found that, despite extensive efforts to prevent large fires with prescribed burns and brush removal, fires continue to be a regular occurrence. And modifying the landscape, research indicates, has unintended impacts.
UC Berkeley wildfire researcher Max Moritz told the writer that in Nothern California, scotch broom, pampas grass and other more flammable nonnatives tend to move into cleared areas where some variety of chaparral once stood.
Preston suggests the best fire management alternatives are:
- Creating defensible space around homes and other buildings. UC Cooperative Extension has a publication, Home Landscaping for Fire, with guidelines for creating defensible space that doesn't suggest eliminating all plants on the land.
- Investing in roof sprinklers and fire-retardant gels.
- Organizing citizen emergency response teams to deal with spot fires.
For more information, see UC's two-page publication Invasive Plants and Wildfires in Southern California.
Wildfire threatening a California subdivision.