Wildire Mitigation Techniques
There are a few ways that fire is managed, and it is necessary because of fuel build up in forests. The main methods of importance for discussion are prescribed burns, mechanical trimming and treatment, post fire actions, and urban planning. Each comes with its own set of pros and cons which is why many communities stand to lose it all if consensus or agreement is not met with understanding in the near future.
Prescribed burns are when a fire fighting agency is coordinated and directed to carefully use fire to burn out dead shrubs and trees, low hanging branches and overgrowth in the understory of a forest. It is very effective, promotes regeneration and is cheap compared to mechanical treatment. Its limitations are “air, quality, liability, expense for private land owners, small burning windows, availability of labor, certificate process, fear of escape and extremely specific conditions are required for safe prescribed burning to take place” (Dylan Pastor Presentation). Despite its effectiveness and need in California landscapes it’s is very difficult to conduct controlled burns where large wildland urban interfaces exist. Aside from the risk escaped fire poses many citizens complain of poor air quality. This very reason leads to fire suppression and fuel accumulation in the east bay. Although prescribed burning could be tricky in the east bay there are optimal windows where it could be effectively used.
Mechanical trimming and treatment is another method where trees and fuel sources are physically removed from their locations. This technique can include tree trimming, tree falling and wood chipping. Although this method reduces fuel density it is much more expensive and time committing. It requires trained forest managers to coordinate with forest fire professionals. In the east bay a location to see the effects of this method vs doing nothing is evident and sign post 29. This is an area where helped coordinate the eradication of Eucalyptus trees. Removing trees altogether is not a permanent solution unless herbicides like Garlon are used and applied directly to the stump shortly after the trees are cut down. There is much opposition to applying chemicals in the forest and confusion has limited advocates for this highly state regulated method. Many have argued they don’t want chemicals sprayed in the forest which is not what would happen with the application of Garlon and other chemicals that would eliminate the risk of trees producing off shoots resulting in future regeneration of their species. Mechanical treatment is very critical for defensible space around residences and required by local fire departments. Goats have also been used to clean up the understory and shrubs in the East bay area.
Clever techniques can be used to reduce the risk, but post fire techniques are also important for mitigating the effects of wildfires. Planting trees is a one way to speed up the forest restoration in areas that are burned to nothing. It also mitigates erosion and water damage from steep hillside terrain which is what much of the east bay is. Aside from restoring the visual beauty to an area it maintains important wildlife habitats.
One thing history has shown is that fire repeats itself and many residences are built in these areas in the East Bay. With the increased risk of occupying these dwellings using fire proof and fire-resistant building materials is more important than ever. While this is not a solution to fuel accumulation in the East Bay Hills it will help create safer homes. Fire adapted homes need smaller vents and class A building materials.