Fire Creates Forest Resilience

03.27.20: Image of prescribed burn at San Vicente Redwoods. Photo: Beatrix Jimenez

On February 27, 2020, Sempervirens and its partners Peninsula Open Space Trust and Save the Redwoods League teamed up with Cal Fire to perform a prescribed burn on the San Vicente Redwoods property, protected by you since 2011.

Cal Fire crews managed to burn nearly 22 acres, connecting to a 7-acre area burned in fall 2016.

The burning consumes downed branches and understory plants to reduce the fuel available for future approaching wildfires, while also providing numerous benefits to the ecosystem. The area burned actually took place within a shaded fuel break, another type of fire break where the understory vegetation has been thinned but the overstory trees are left to shade the area and keep it cool, damp, and with less regrowth.

The project area is strategically placed along the ridgeline of Empire Grade to slow or stop fires that might spread towards Bonny Doon, Felton, or other nearby communities. To conduct a burn, conditions need to fit a careful prescription with the right amount of humidity, fuel moisture, wind speed, and be on an approved burn day by the regional air resources district, creating narrow windows for successfully making it happen.

While burning has long been a tool in Cal Fire’s repertoire, and for thousands of years before that with many Native American tribes, there have been increasing efforts in recent years to utilize it more broadly because of its ability to reduce fuel loads while also providing significant ecological benefits. Many species and ecosystems in this region are well adapted to fire, some even require it to sprout.

Fire not only eliminates many of the understory fuels more efficiently than other mechanical options, but it also returns nutrients to the soil and can stimulate the growth of a wide array of species. While many areas are too densely overgrown to burn, as more effort goes into utilizing fire it will hopefully continue to expand as a natural, effective, and culturally significant method to reduce catastrophic wildfire.

With the funds raised by you on #GivingTuesday, Sempervirens will continue conducting prescribed burns, creating similar fuel breaks, placing water tanks, and doing other fire management activities to help protect local communities and improve the habitat.

Learn more about redwoods and wildfires.

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