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Forest Futures Salon: Wildfire 101

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
Published on December 18, 2021

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After the considerable impact that the 2021 fire season had on the Tahoe and surrounding region, TTCF encouraged community members to join a “Wildfire 101” Forest Futures Salon that would help them better understand what happens inside a Sierra Nevada fire- how it moves and the trail it leaves. UC Berkeley and US Forest Service Fire ecologist Brandon Collins shared with us his research that aims to inform forest management and improve resiliency in our forests. In doing so, he stressed, “we can influence the patterns of these fires with management strategies.” But how?

Brandon showed a photograph of a burnt landscape from the Dixie Fire in the Plumas National Forest that had previously burned in 2007. The photo displays two different management strategies: on the left is US Forest Service ground where they did not do much to the land following the fire and on the right is private land where they did replanting and vegetation control. This shows how two different strategies will produce two different results that can impact how a fire moves and the severity it burns across a landscape.

Decades of mismanaged timber harvesting in Sierra forests removed the largest trees with thicker bark that tend to be more fire resistant. This changed the character and spatial properties of our forests leaving too many small trees which increase ladder fuels. Since fire moves both horizontally and vertically, this becomes a problem. We also do not see our trees resprouting after a fire as they are not adapted to high-severity fires as some areas in Canada.

These “mega-fires”, that were once considered one-offs, are part of a trend that continues to increase. We are seeing the same areas burning at high-severity more than once in a short period of time which is not natural. The time is now and we need to do something at a meaningful scale as quickly as possible. Brandon felt hopeful talking to our group saying that the more that people have conversations around restoration efforts, the greater impact we can have. So, join us, learn and engage- do your part to protect our forest.

 Watch the full recording and stay up-to-date on upcoming Salons through our Forest Futures Salons webpage.