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To Lessen Wildfire Risk, Experts Recommend Controlled Burns

Jenna Lane
April 12, 2019 - 10:41 am
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There are 2.7 million California residents living in areas labeled as "very high fire hazard severity zones," according to an analysis by the Associated Press and other news organizations. 

These areas include cities, towns and communities in the Bay Area, notably, in the East Bay Hills, the Santa Cruz Mountains and large swaths of the Peninsula.

There are ways to mitigate some of the wildfire risk, according to land management experts who are part of the Bay Area Prescribed Fire Council.

The group is dedicated to using controlled burns as a key prevention tool. Its members are seeing a growing interest among local landowners, such as park districts and water agencies, in using prescribed fires in vulnerable areas.

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It may seem counterintuitive to light a fire in high risk areas, but experts claim good burns contain themselves without needing water to put them out. 

"It's something that had mostly fallen off the map in the early aughts," said Jared Childress, a member of the fire council. "Due to the large, catastrophic wildfires we've been having in California, there's been a resurgence [in interest> in that land management tool."

Controlled burns work hand in hand with other prevention measures, such as crews going in and removing fuel, and herds of goats doing what comes naturally.

"Goats are a great tool. I myself have used them fairly effectively, but there's only so much they can do," Childress said. "They tend to eat the fine fuels and not the actual woody material, so at a certain point you need something that's going to be able to reduce the woody material, and fire happens to be a natural born wood eater."

The fire council will meet next month for a tour of Morgan Hill, which is within the local hazard zone.

To see if your community is high risk, check out the chart here. 

Written by Diana Shook.