Posts

There’s a Silver Lining to California’s Wildfires: More Snowpack and Water Storage, Study Finds

Wildfires in California leave behind acres of scorched land that make snowpack formation easier and more water runoff downstream from the Sierra Nevada to basins in the Central Valley, increasing the amount of water stored underground.

That’s the finding from researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who discovered that blazes in some parts of the state could result in more water availability.

Avoiding invasive plant species, removing dead leaves and branches, and planting native plants can protect your landscape and home from wildfires. Photo: azboomer/Pixabay

Firefighting with Plants

Wildfire is a constant threat in Southern California. But there are ways you can protect your landscape and home using native, fire-resistant plants.

Plan your landscaping in three zones

Zone 1: Help your landscape resist fires by choosing smart designs and fire-resistant plants. The first zone should provide 35 feet of defensible space around structures and access areas. This maximizes fire prevention and allows fire crews to access your property if needed.

Zone 2: Your landscape should reduce the chances of airborne embers from catching fire. Thin vegetation for at least 65 additional feet in the second zone. That makes for a total of 100 feet of defensible space.

Zone 3: Many of San Diego County’s native, fire-resistant plants can survive and recover from infrequent fires. Some plants even use fire as a signal to begin growing.

However, when fires occur too frequently, survival is tough for even the most well-adapted plants. Invasive, non-native plant species make fires more frequent, longer in duration, and hotter. That’s why it’s important to remove invasive plants in fire-prone areas.

Crassula is a diverse and extensive genus of succulent plants, with about 350 species.

Crassula is a diverse and extensive genus of succulent plants, with about 350 species. Photo: Pixabay

Use fire-resistant plants

Some native plants with high salt or water content can themselves from airborne embers. For instance, agave, aloe, crassula, and other succulents store extra water in their fleshy leaves. These plants also usually have a low volatile oil content.

Five fire-resistant plant choices include:

  • Daylily hybrids
  • Coral Aloe
  • Indian Mallow
  • Bush Morning Glory
  • California Sycamore trees

Avoid plants that fuel wildfires

Messy, oily trees and shrubs, such as eucalyptus and junipers, fuel fires. They ignite quickly, burn hot and long, and release embers into the air. Because of those factors, they contribute to the spread of wildfire.

Preventative landscape maintenance includes regularly removing dry grass, thatch, brush, weeds, litter, waste, and dead and dying vegetation. Trees should be properly pruned. Similarly, shrubs should be thinned. Remove any dead branches or leaves. Leave root structures intact to avoid erosion. Dead leaves and branches are especially flammable on evergreen shrubs, so avoid planting these close to homes or structures.

This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

OPINION: Klamath Dams Critical To Fighting Wildfires

Wildfire season is upon us once again in the Klamath Basin. When homes and lives are at stake in a wildfire, nothing is more important than having firebreaks and a readily available water source. That’s exactly what’s provided by the reservoirs created by dams on the Klamath River. The fact that the dams and those reservoirs are being targeted for removal by the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) is a great source of worry for residents, firefighters, and the County of Siskiyou. Citizen safety is a primary responsibility of the county. The reservoirs of Copco and Iron Gate have proven critical to saving local communities from wildfire for many years.

PG&E’s Planned Power Shutdowns Could Choke Off Vital Water Supplies

It could also mean limited use of toilets and taps, an inconvenience that water and sewer districts across the state are scrambling to address before a blackout comes and nature calls.

A Drier Future Sets The Stage For More Wildfires

November 8, 2018 was a dry day in Butte County, California. The state was in its sixth consecutive year of drought, and the county had not had a rainfall event producing more than a half inch of rain for seven months. The dry summer had parched the spring vegetation, and the strong northeasterly winds of autumn were gusting at 35 miles per hour and rising, creating red flag conditions: Any planned or unplanned fires could quickly get out of control.

Wildfire Panel Recommends Extending Safeguards to Water Agencies

When the Thomas Fire reached Ventura city limits early on Dec. 5, 2017, a critical tool to help curb the flames quickly disappeared: water.

Some of the more than 500 people who ultimately lost their homes sued Ventura over that lack of water, though they later directed their energy at Southern California Edison, which investigators found caused the fire.

Liability Law Could Burn Water Districts

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is in bankruptcy largely because of wildfire costs. Now, water districts are seeking protection against California’s fire-related liability law, believing their financial stability is at risk even if their actions and operations had nothing to do with causing a fire.

California Areas Torched By Wildfires Face New Dangers—Flooding and Mudslides

The rain that’s forecasted for later this week may give California some much-needed relief from the deadly and destructive wildfires plaguing the state. But too much sudden rainfall may pose its own dangers for land that has been burned. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for the Butte County area, which is fighting the Camp Fire, for Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning. The warning states that there’s a chance of heavy rain which could trigger “flash floods, rockslides and/or debris flows” in a areas near the fire.

California Fires, Floods, Droughts: “It’s Getting More Real Now” Jerry Brown Says In Climate Interview

California Gov. Jerry Brown has made renewable energy and climate change a centerpiece of his final term, which ends in January. This week, he co-hosts the “Global Climate Action Summit”in San Francisco. Thousands of scientists, political leaders, business representatives and celebrities from around the globe are arriving all week for the event, which is designed to continue momentum at local levels — despite indifference from the Trump administration — to expand renewable energy and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that scientists say are warming the planet and leading to more wildfires, heat waves, droughts, floods and other problems. Brown discussed the issues in an interview with Paul Rogers, resources and environment writer for the Bay Area News Group.

Fire, Water And Trump’s Tweets

On Aug. 6, President Donald Trump made his first Twitter statement on California’s summer fire season, which started on June 1. Unlike his statement on last year’s Wine Country fires, when the president tweeted condolences to victims of the fires and support for the firefighters, Trump used these latest natural disasters to troll California with nonsense. At 10:43 a.m., Trump tweeted, “Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.”