Posts Tagged: Max Moritz
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.
It may seem like a wildfire would be easy to detect, but vast, rugged wilderness can permit a small blaze to develop into a firestorm before firefighters are deployed.
Reeling from the enormous losses sustained by last year's devastating Station Fire in Los Angeles County -- which took two firefighters' lives, destroyed dozens of structures and cost more than $95 million to fight -- Supervisor Mike Antonovich is asking the county to allocate money to study a high-tech early detection system.
"The Station fire graphically spotlights the need to study and identify solutions for establishing an automated early detection system," Antonovich said in his motion to allocate the funding, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The goal of a technology-based system would be to . . . have a programmed airborne response within minutes to suppress the fire before it spreads."Times reporter Tony Barboza spoke to UC Berkeley fire scientist Max Moritz, who threw water on the idea.
"Does the technology even exist to do this kind of thing?" the story quoted Moritz, who is also co-director of UC Berkeley's Center for Fire Research and Outreach. "I think that's an open question."
Moritz said officials are already able to detect wildfire early under mild conditions.
"But under the conditions we're most worried about -- Santa Ana winds, for instance -- it's not clear that we'd be able to get airborne resources deployed within minutes," Moritz was quoted.
UC Berkeley and UC Cooperative Extension maintain a wide variety of programs aimed at understanding California wildfire and how losses from wildfire can be minimized. Articles, links, and video are available in the online wildfire media kit.