Guest opinion: Becoming more resilient to wildland fire | November 6, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - November 6, 2019

Guest opinion: Becoming more resilient to wildland fire

by Ana Maria Ruiz

Fire is a fact of life in California, and we all have a responsibility to expand our individual and collective resiliency to it. The occurrence and severity of fire is dependent on three essential elements: oxygen, fuel and a heat source responsible for ignition. Together, we can work to manage two of these elements: fuel and ignition.

Fuel for wildland fires is mainly provided by vegetation. In fact, California's native plant communities have adapted to periodic fire. However, dense regrowth after heavy historic logging coupled with more than a century of fire suppression has resulted in a buildup of vegetation.

Midpen maintains fuel breaks, defensible space, hundreds of miles of fire roads and emergency access routes across our preserves. On our coastal lands, 11,000 acres are leased to ranching tenants for conservation cattle grazing to reduce vegetation and enhance grasslands.

Midpen is making significant investments of public funds to expand our vegetation management this year in an environmentally sensitive manner. We're working with local fire agencies to identify priority areas, and will continue expanding our work into new areas of the wildland-urban interface. Examples include new fuel reduction projects in our Windy Hill, Pulgas Ridge and Bear Creek Redwoods preserves, among others. We are also planning to reintroduce prescribed fire under the direction of Cal Fire to reduce vegetation and restore natural habitats starting in 2022.

In the Bay Area, we are experiencing increasing episodes of extreme heat. Our changing climate is contributing to and exacerbating these extreme weather patterns. At Midpen, we are working toward aggressive, voluntary reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions. The natural lands we manage are continuously removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in forests, grasslands and soils.

According to Cal Fire, humans cause 95% of California wildland fires. Midpen rangers work to help visitors safely enjoy the preserves and enforce regulations prohibiting high fire-risk activities, including smoking, campfires and off-road vehicles. Should a fire affect Midpen open space lands, we are prepared. We equip ranger trucks with water pumpers during fire season and our rangers are trained as wildland fire first responders to assist the local fire departments responsible for fire suppression.

Join us in making our community more resistant and resilient to wildland fire. Reduce your carbon footprint to help address climate change. Prevent fires by avoiding activities such as mowing, barbecues, smoking, camp fires and parking on grass, particularly on red flag warning days. If you live in the wildland-urban interface, harden your home, create an evacuation plan as a precaution and maintain defensible space around structures.

Together, we can do the work necessary to live safely with fire in California.

Ana Maria Ruiz is the general manager of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, a public agency created by voters to acquire and preserve a regional greenbelt of open space land of regional significance in perpetuity, protect and restore the natural environment and provide opportunities for ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.

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