How Does Land Recover After a Wildfire?
In my previous blog post "Wildfires: Are They Good or Bad?" I touched on the pros and cons of wildfires. In summary, wildfires are actually vital for the health of a forest. As stated in my previous blog, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), there are many benefits of fire. "It is one of our greatest tools and one of our most destructive forces," (CalFire). Fires actually clean the forest floor, provide better habitat for animals, kills disease and promotes new generations of plants and animals.
As witnessed in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire, a secondhand natural disaster can likely occur, causing more damage and death. After burning for over a month, the Thomas Fire scorched the land and took all necessary signs of life with it. Because of this, the land was so dry and impacted that any rain we received couldn't possibly be absorbed quick enough to prevent flooding. During the fire, the residents of California prayed for rain. Unfortunately, it didn't come quick enough, and when it did, it came so hard and fast that it created an entirely separate disaster. This type of flooding created massive mudslides. In this situation, the mudslides are technically called "post-fire debris flows," (newsweek.com). Mudslides are the "worst case scenario" to occur after a fire, (newsweek.com). Had large trees with deep roots grown in the slopes that burned, the established roots could have helped prevent the erosion that created the mudslides.
As promised, this blog is about how land recovers after a wildfire, and more specifically, what we can do as a society to help those efforts. How the lands recover also includes how to prevent another fire of this caliber from happening. So, how can we prevent massive and deadly wildfires from occurring?
County Level Suggestions
- Plant deep-rooting trees, such as Oak trees, throughout the county and on slopes
- Have more controlled burns throughout the year, this maintains dry foliage and vegetation
- Graze large pastures with multi-species grazing methods to save costs of fuel, and to keep overgrowth knocked down
- After a fire has occurred, replant the affected areas to promote new and appropriate growth
Community Level Suggestions
- Never leave a fire unattended
- When hauling, constantly check if your car is dragging a chain or other object (this prevents sparks from traffic catching fire along interstates)
- Follow local ordinances with burning yard waste
- Ensure to completely extinguish any cigarettes and dispose of them properly
- Pay attention to weather patterns. If there is a large amount of rain only once or twice a year, weeds can grow heavily in places that aren't checked regularly. This kind of dry environment with heavy dead growth is the perfect environment for a wildfire.
Make sure to check out next week's blog post about what species of plants we should use to revegetate land affected by wildfires.
Monticeto image, photo credit to Los Angeles Times
California, S. O. (n.d.). California Statewide Fire Map. Retrieved February 09, 2018, from http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_details_info?incident_id=1922 Pereira, S. (2018, January 14).
Huge mudslides in California have killed at least 15 people. Retrieved February 20, 2018, from http://www.newsweek.com/california-fires-wiped-out-forests-and-now-huge-mudslides-are-killing-people-776676
Wildfires Information, Preparation, and Safety Tips. (2018, January 18). Retrieved February 20, 2018, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/wildfire-safety-tips/#close