The best way to protect ourselves from the impact of a wildfire is … fire

The best way to protect ourselves from the impact of a wildfire is … fire

Many supporters and volunteers of ACR have reached out to us over the weekend, concerned about how Modini Mayacamas Preserves and our staff may be affected by the Sawmill fire in northeast Sonoma County.

As of Monday morning, Modini Mayacamas Preserves is not in the path of this fire, winds continue to push it in other directions. We remain vigilant, as things can always change.

Kudos to the Press Democrat for highlighting an important point in their most recent article.

Here’s the gist of what the firefighters on the ground were telling them: In high temperatures, steep terrain and drought-stressed vegetation, it is burn scars from recent fires that can stop a wildfire. The best way to protect ourselves from the impacts of a wildfire is… fire.

What does this mean for healthy ecosystems and human communities in the Mayacamas Mountains? Prescribed fire is one needed part of the answer. In addition we can individually and collectively prepare for wildfires so we shift to recognizing not only might a fire burn near us someday, but we need and want it to do so. One threat greater than a wildfire is living in a place with fire-adapted vegetation that has NOT had a wildfire.

Prescribed fire is when land managers purposely set fires during conditions and in locations where they are least likely to cause damage to human property and most likely to achieve land management goals. They are complex and expensive to implement due to stringent air quality requirements, narrow weather windows of opportunities, extensive planning and preparation and physical challenges caused by terrain, vegetation and local fire history.

There are many things home owners can do to make their homes more likely to survive a wildfire. There is a great body of knowledge: we’ve taken the time to learn from which homes survived and which ones burned in fires of the past. This knowledge is distilled down into easy to implement guidelines by our local fire safe councils, such as If you choose to live near natural areas, you have a responsibility, please take it seriously. Firefighter lives and our society’s attitudes about wildfire depend on it. In addition, be prepared to evacuate by keeping on hand the list of things you would take if you had 5 minutes to get out.

Finally, ultimately it is our land use patterns which will dictate the extent to which it is practical to allow fires to burn. By supporting protection of natural areas and limiting our development to locations that already contain human structures we move towards a future in which wildfires are less of a threat to human property.

A short list, but a tall order. However that’s what it takes for wildfire to transform from something we are frightened of and want to squelch, into a process we recognize and accept as part of our wildlands.