California Chaparral Institute on new housing developments in very high fire-prone areas

Rick Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute says so many smart things in this TV interview…and, in my opinion, the reporter does an excellent job as well. The segment starts at the 5:33 mark and runs to the 9:10 mark. Blog readers may recall that Rick Halsey has, in the past, been a commenter on this blog and has always offered spot-on perspective on a host of issues, including wildfires and the ecology of the chaparral ecosystem in California. Also, great work by the Center for Biological Diversity to help convince the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to delay decision on approving another subdivision in fire-prone areas.

8 thoughts on “California Chaparral Institute on new housing developments in very high fire-prone areas”

  1. I’m sure that some people have seen a map produced by Rick’s group. Does anyone find it odd that Rick has not shared it, here? It is a map of tree mortality, with an overlay of past brush fires, some of which happened well before the current mortality (1990). Of course, there is no mention of the Rim Fire, the King Fire and dozens of other historical fires which burned inside of the high mortality zones on his map. The map seems intended for people to think these fires had nothing to do with fuels management. We do know he is against fuelbreaks in brush, in the WUI.

    Example: “The majority of the area that burned prior to the Camp Fire hittting the town of Paradise had burned 10 year ago and was composed of habitats other than forest (e.g. post fire shrublands). The wind-driven ember rain that destroyed the town came primarily from sparse to dense shrublands, grasslands, areas damaged from salvage logging, and young tree plantations northeast of the town.”

    Sooo, he is also blaming fuels reductions, in the WUI, for the town of Paradise burning down. What burns better? Salvaged, or unsalvaged. The aerial photos show that the salvaged areas ARE, indeed, within the WUI. Opponents of the USFS have insisted that they should focus work close to towns but, Both Hanson and Halsey insist that the WUI not have fuels reduced, through salvage.

    I think that fire intensity, driven by high winds, was actually reduced by dead trees and brush being reduced, through salvage logging. I’m not a fan of SPI practices but, there is no evidence that the salvaged area, far from the ignition source, was the cause of Paradise burning down.

  2. As the map produced by the California Chaparral Institute clearly states: It’s a map of “Major Devastating Wildfires and Tree Mortality (at least 500 structures lost and/or 1 or more fatalities) to November 17, 2018.”

    So, notwithstanding Larry’s attempt at a conspiracy theory, my guess is that the Rim Fire and King Fire didn’t met the qualification clearly presented on the map.

    Also, I hardly find it odd that Rick Halsey has not taken the time to post his map in our little sandbox (AKA this blog). Plenty of things are written, produced and shared widely by lots of people that never get posted to this blog. Again, nice attempt at fanning some type of conspiracy theory Larry. Keep it up.

    P.S. Here’s the map and entire post from the California Chaparral Institute, as posted on their Facebook page on November 17, 2018.

    Here’s how to respond to those misleading posts claiming our recent fires are all about tree huggers preventing logging and a supposed fuel build up via past fire suppression.

    1. Most of California’s most devastating fires were far from any forest (see map below).

    2. For those few devastating fires that were near forests, all of those forests around the communities destroyed had the kind of suggested thinning and fuel treatments misinformed commentators claim didn’t exist.

    3. The majority of the area that burned prior to the Camp Fire hittting the town of Paradise had burned 10 year ago and was composed of habitats other than forest (e.g. post fire shrublands). The wind-driven ember rain that destroyed the town came primarily from sparse to dense shrublands, grasslands, areas damaged from salvage logging, and young tree plantations northeast of the town. A large percentage of the trees within the devastated town did not burn. See the fire progression map here and match it with the current view on Google Earth:
    Here is an excellent map of the fire from the New York Times:…/california-camp-fire-paradise.html

    4. Climate change is drying the state. Dryer conditions lead to a more flammable landscape. We may see more of the kind of winds that powered the Camp Fire into Paradise. More fires will dramatically alter the kinds of habitats we are used to seeing. Non-native weed filled landscapes that dominate places like Riverside County will likely become more common. More on this issue here:

    It is more than discouraging when someone claims our wildfires are all about forests, dead trees, lack of logging, or unnatural fuel build up via past fire suppression. Such claims are a disservice to the families who have lost so much and hamper our efforts to solve the problem.

    What is it about? Flammable homes and communities located on flammable terrain.

    Please see our solutions in our letter to Governor Brown below.

    Here is a well-researched article on the Woolsey Fire from the LA Times:…/la-me-woolsey-fire-progression/

    Here’s how to protect your home from wildfire:

    Here’s our information flyer on external sprinklers:…/INDEPENDENT_EXTERNAL_S…

    Here’s why Governor Brown and the California State Legislature failed us – they ignored the real problem:…/Gov_Brown_2017_Wildfir…

    Here are the most devastating wildfires in California to November 17, 2018 as per Cal Fire’s list of 20 (fire, structures burned, fatalities):

    Fires 2017-2018
    Camp/14,420/83 (as of 11/22/2018)*
    Tubbs/ 5636/ 22
    Redwood/ 546 / 9
    Carr/ 1599/ 8
    Atlas/ 783/ 6
    Nuns/ 1355/ 3
    Woolsey/1500/3 (as of 11/22/2018)
    Thomas/ 1063/ 2
    Ferguson/ 131/ 2
    Mendocino/ 277/ 1 (forest burned within fire perimeter, but not generally involved in losses)

    Previous devastating fires prior to 2017 where losses were also unrelated to forests and dead trees:
    Tunnel (1991)/ 2900 /25
    Cedar (2003)/ 2820/ 15
    Harris (2007)/ 548/ 8
    Witch Creek (2007)/ 1650/ 2
    Butte (2015)/ 921/ 2
    Erskine (2016)/309/2 (not part of the Cal Fire top 20)
    Jones (1999)/ 954/ 1
    Paint (1990)/ 641/ 1

    Significant forested area involved, but not seriously impacted by dead trees:
    Old (2003)/ 1003/ 6 (some of the home losses were near forested areas)
    Valley (2015)/ 1955/ 4
    *Camp Fire involved forest inside the fire perimeter, but most of the area within the fire’s path prior to hitting the town of Paradise was a mix of habitats.

    • Still, much of that ‘analysis’ is cherrypicking and ‘apples versus oranges’ (overlaying a old fires over recent mortality). Plus, the aerial photos do not match the rhetoric that salvage logging made the Camp Fire worse. How far did the fire burn BEFORE it hit salvaged areas?!?!? How close were those salvage areas to Paradise?!?! There are some blocks of Forest Service land in that path and there was no salvage, at all. Just brush and small dead trees. Finally, homes do not burn on Federal lands but, old growth and rare wildlife habitat does. Fires impact soils and hydrological features very negatively. The impacts of firestorms are well-known and very, very bad for humans, as well as our ecosystems. The map and flawed analysis has no effect on ‘the bigger picture’.

  3. Just stumbled upon this post.

    Larry, is it possible that you could look at the actual data, the subject being discussed, and comment on that, rather than bringing in red herrings to deflect the conversation?

    The issues are:
    1. A development being planned with only ONE, two-lane road exit in an extremely high fire hazard zone. Apparently your dismissal of that point indicates you can’t possibly see that might be a problem.

    2. The historical data clearly shows exactly what our maps shows. ALL of the most devastating wildfires in California had NOTHING to do with dead trees, and nearly ALL of the most devastating wildfires had NOTHING to do with forests. Please explain what that has to do with different types of fruit.

    • Blaming the Camp Fire tragedy on forest management is a much bigger red herring. We don’t know what would have happened had there been no private salvage logging, close to town. However, we CAN assume that there would have been more fuel to burn, which could have led to a crown fire, through town, instead of a fire skipping and jumping. The new Google aerials show that SPI plantations were, literally, vaporized. We can also assume that more fuel would have burned even more intensely. There is no science that says burned and unsalvaged conifer forests survive wildfires better than managed plantations. Especially in California, on southerly-facing slopes. If you look at the current aerials, you’ll see the outlines of all the dead trees that burned. Vast amounts, between ignition sites and town.

      And still, those tens of millions of dead trees in California remain (and will remain a hazard for decades), waiting for the next inevitable spark, whether from lightning or from a careless human.

    • Richard, can you please define “devastating”? Acres? I don’t see anyone here saying that poor planning of subdivisions in fire country is a good idea.


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