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FIRE!!! The Cover Story

Native plant advocates have used many different arguments to justify the destruction of non-native trees (eucalypts are the primary target) and we will examine them all in A Million Trees.  However, their most effective argument has been a bogus claim that non-native trees and plants are more flammable than native vegetation.  This justification has been effective because fear is a powerful motivator for all public policy.

NY Times reported that 150 homes burned in this wind-driven fire in San Diego in 2003, but the eucalyptus did not burn. NY Times photo

The most frequently cited “evidence” of the flammability of eucalypts is the 1991 firestorm in the Oakland/Berkeley hills.  The conventional wisdom is that eucalypts were the cause of that fire.  The role the eucalypts played in the 1991 fire in the East Bay is greatly exaggerated.

As FEMA notes in its analysis of that fire, the fire started in dry grass (“On…October 19, 1991…a brush fire was reported…the vegetation on the slope was mostly grass with some brush and a few trees.” page 22) and only leapt out of control when a spark reached nearby brush (On October 20, 1991, “Very suddenly, the fire flared up…Burning embers had been carried from one of the hot spots to a patch of tinder dry brush.” page 26).  During a wildfire accelerated by high wind, everything will burn, including eucalyptus.   That does not mean the eucalypts were the cause of the fire.

Eucalyptus contributed more fuel to the fire than they normally do because of the deep freeze that occurred the winter preceding that fire: “The unprecedented drought was accompanied by an unusual period of freezing weather, in December 1990, which killed massive quantities of the lighter brush and eucalyptus. Dead fuel accumulated on the ground in many areas and combined with dropped pine needles and other natural debris to create a highly combustible blanket.  Due to the fiscal cutbacks, governmental programs to thin these fuels and create fuel breaks were severely curtailed, so the fuel load was much greater than normal by the second half of 1991.” (page 6)  Such freezes, sufficiently deep and sustained, causing eucalypts (and other plants) to die back are very rare in the Bay Area. There has not been such a freeze since 1990 and its predecessor was in the early 1970s.  Since they are rare, they can be easily mitigated by clearing the dead debris after such a freeze, a significantly more cost-effective  and less destructive measure than eradicating a million trees.

Weather is an important factor in creating the conditions for fires.  In addition to deep freezes resulting in dead leaf litter, high winds from the hot interior—called Diablo winds in the Bay Area—are an important factor.  These Diablo winds are associated with high temperatures.  If a fire ignites during a Diablo wind, it is quickly fanned into a conflagration and quickly spreads.  These weather conditions are rare occurrences on the San Francisco peninsula because of the moderating influence of the ocean.  In San Francisco, the winters are warmer and the summers cooler than the East Bay.  For that reason, the fear of fire in San Francisco is irrational.

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is a highly respected source of deeply researched news stories.  They published an excellent article about the 1991 fire in the East Bay, which is based on an interview with Jan Null, who was the lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in the Bay Area at the time of the fire.  Mr. Null explains the important role that weather played in the 1991 fire.  He recommends that we focus on the factors that we can control because we can’t control the weather:  “The largest issues identified afterwards were mostly related to firefighting. These included better communication between agencies, standardization of equipment and ensuring defensible space around homes.”

University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) applied for a FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grant to remove eucalypts from Mt. Sutro, based on a claim that these trees are a fire hazard.  FEMA’s scientists were able to evaluate UCSF’s grant applications. Their knowledge of the local conditions led to questions about the grant applications which ultimately resulted in UCSF’s withdrawal of their applications for fire mitigation grants.

The FEMA report  on the 1991 fire in the East Bay is consistent with the Mayors’ “Task Force on Emergency Preparedness & Community Restoration.” Officials from all jurisdictions in the fire area participated in this analysis of the causes of the 1991 fire.  They were assisted by nearly 100 citizens, experts, and scientists.   Participants included “experienced fire ecologists, firefighters, foresters, arborists, landscape architects, park naturalists, geologists, writers, editors, and homeowners.”  The recommendations of the Forestry and Vegetation Committee of the Task Force were unanimous.

Their “Primary Findings” included, “The current emphasis on Blue gum…and Monterey pine…as primary culprits in the recent fire, and calls for quick removal of them are an oversimplification that can lead to negative environmental consequences.”  (Page 31)  And their “Policy Recommendations” included, “Do not target specific species, such as Blue gum eucalyptus, or Monterey pine, for eradication…” (page 37)

The public record does not support the claim that eucalypts are to blame for the 1991 fire in the East Bay hills. 

Read more about fire in posts available HERE.


42 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenneth Gibson permalink
    July 11, 2010 12:28 am

    Trees do not start fires. Sparks from human activity, lightening and spontaneous combustion of particular compounds in peculiar circumstances start fires. However, fires be come massively dangerous when massive amounts of fuel become available. Once wind-whipped fire climbs the fuel ladder to a stand of summer baked eucalyptus, hell breaks loose. Of course eucalyptus did not start the fire in 1991 in Oakland but it was the major fuel that caused temperatures to soar and provided fuel between groups of houses and where there were no houses. Selective reading of government reports won’t change that.

    Lets focus on putting a large number of safer trees back to replace your count of a million to be taken.

    • July 11, 2010 9:05 am

      Mr. Gibson says, “Lets focus on putting a large number of safer trees to replace your count of a million to be taken.”

      A laudable goal, but not realistic because it is based on the mistaken assumption that non-native trees are more flammable than those that are native. The trees that are native to the Bay Area—predominantly oaks and bays—are not less flammable than non-native trees. They both have lower fire ladders because they are prostrate trees, compared to the tall eucalypts. Mr. Gibson acknowledges the role that fire ladders play in fires that spread on the ground. Bays have high volatile oil content, much of which is the same oil as that contained in eucalyptus leaves. And both oaks and bays are subject to Sudden Oak Death that is killing thousands of trees, particularly along the California coast. Since any dead tree is more flammable than living trees, they are potentially a greater hazard. One dramatic illustration of the likelihood of eucalypts to ignite in a wildfire is available in this New York Times photo of a wildfire in Southern California that destroyed a neighborhood of homes without igniting any of the surrounding eucalypts within a few yards of those homes (available here: )

  2. July 31, 2010 4:42 pm

    sorry, but coast live oak is way, way less flammable that Eucalyptus OR Monterey Pine (which is of course native to the Central Coast). I challenge you to find a firefighter who will tell you coast live oak is anywhere close to eucalyptus or pine in flammability. It just isn’t true!

    • July 31, 2010 6:43 pm

      Actually, I don’t think we have said here or elsewhere on Million Trees that Coast Live Oak is more flammable than eucalyptus because we don’t know that it is. Here is what we have said about the flammability of oaks:

      1. That Coast Live Oak and other native trees and vegetation burned in the 1991 fire in the East Bay Hills (see “Power of a Legend”).

      2. That the moisture content in the oak leaf is roughly the same as the moisture content in the eucalyptus leaf and that eucalypts condense more moisture from the fog than oaks because they are taller (see “Fire Factors: #1 Moisture).

      3. That laboratory experiments conducted by the USDA prove that the oak leaf propels embers and that oak embers were observed by rangers during the 2008 Angel Island Fire (see “More Fire Factors: Fire Ladders and Embers”).

      4. That the fire ladder on an oak is lower than that of the eucalyptus and therefore fire traveling on the ground has greater access to the canopy of the oak. (see “More Fire Factors…”).

      5. That the Coast Live Oak is being killed by Sudden Oak Death throughout the Bay Area and that any dead tree is more flammable than any living tree. This point was not previously made on Million Trees, but it is relevant to the post about the role of moisture in fires, because that is the critical difference between dead and living vegetation, including trees.

      As for the opinion of firefighters about the relative flammability of oaks and eucalypts, please read this post on the SaveSutro blog from David Maloney, retired firefighter, who does not share your view:

      We try our best to stay as closely as possible to the facts that we know and we cite peer-reviewed science whenever possible. We can’t generalize about the relative flammability of particular species of plants and trees. We can only report what we know about each species.

      • Jim Wells permalink
        March 18, 2011 9:40 pm

        I appreciate your declared approach to reporting and interpreting data.
        I shall assume for now that you are sincere.
        Therefore, I expect you to appreciate these clarifications made in the spirit of your delcared philosophy:
        Your response to naturalistcharlie’s comment that “coast live oak is way, way less flammable that eucalyptus” was that you “don’t think we have said here or elsewhere on Million Trees that Coast Live Oak is more flammable than eucalyptus.”
        1) That is, at the least, a semantical dance, not a substantive refutation. In your post of July 11, 2010 9:05 am, to which naturalistcharlie seemed to be responding, you had written: “The trees that are native to the Bay Area—predominantly oaks and bays—are not less flammable than non-native trees.”
        Accurately utilizing information requires first accurately reporting and accurately understanding it. Natrualistcharlie did NOT claim that you said that Coast Live Oak is more flammable than eucalyptus. It is obvious that naturalistcharlie was responding to your claim that oaks native to the Bay Area are not less flammable than non-native trees. If Coast Oaks are a tree native to the Bay Area, and if Eucalyptus are not, then you DID write that Coast Oaks are not less flammable than are Eucalyptus, and natrualistcharlie contested that claim.
        You are free to contest naturalistcharlie’s contest, but to do so by mischaracterizing naturalistcharlie’s contest is not in keeping with your alleged philosophy of sticking to the facts.
        2) To further claim that “We can’t generalize about the relative flammability of particular species of plants and trees” only amplifies the appearance that you are not holding yourselves to the same standards that you demand for others. Just what about the words: “The trees that are native to the Bay Area—predominantly oaks and bays—are not less flammable than non-native trees” is NOT generalizing about the relative flammability of particular species of plants and trees?
        Please don’t try to argue that since you did not mention the names of specific trees, but only included ALL trees native to the Bay Area and ALL non-native trees, that your claim that you can’t generalize about the flammability of particular species in those groups is a valid defense.
        Because that would simply reinforce the impression that you, too, are not willing to examine how, and admit that your own biases at least sometimes color your arguments.

  3. Skeptic permalink
    February 5, 2012 2:34 pm

    Whew! Jim, you have picked that nit to death. But I still can’t see where you come down on the issue beneath your quibbling. Do you claim coast live oaks are less flammable than eucalyptus (which Charlie does claim, without evidence)? If not, you must acknowledge Milliontrees is correct on that issue. To me it is clear: coast live oaks are not less flammable than eucalyptus. That is to say: coast live oaks are as flammable as eucalyptus. If you disagree, please offer some evidence.

    • Jim Wells permalink
      February 5, 2012 3:49 pm

      I claim no personal knowledge about the relative flammability, live or dead, of coast live oaks and eucalyptus.

      But thanks for the succinct clarification of Milliontrees’s position.on that.

      On a related note, though, in my ecosystem, dead trees, if large enough, in old age, become, as sponges, moisture pockets that dampen fire.

  4. Skeptic permalink
    February 5, 2012 7:11 pm

    Well that’s a new one to me. Most people consider dead trees to be the fire hazard–that is to say: dead trees are much more flammable than live trees. But if you could cite some sources on “dead trees as moisture pockets” theory, I would like to read them.

    I can only clarify my positions. Million Trees speaks for himself. (Quite well, in my opinion.)

  5. Jim Wells permalink
    February 6, 2012 8:39 am

    This will get you started:

    btw, that “most people consider” line kinda’ clashes with the “if it isn’t in a reputable scientific paper, then I don’t have to accept it” mantra.

  6. Skeptic permalink
    February 6, 2012 10:08 am

    Thanks. Interesting paper. I was missled by the phrase “dead trees,” which brought to my mind a dead tree complete with all its fine fuels attached. That’s what is at issue in the urban-wildlands interface in the bay area: oaks killed by SOD, pines killed by pine canker, and eucalyptus which some people say (falsely) are dying of old age. Isn’t it a tautology to say the boles of trees left after a wildfire are fire resistant?

    • Jim Wells permalink
      February 6, 2012 2:00 pm

      Tautology? As in: “needless repetition of an idea”?
      That would depend on to whom it was being repeated.
      I would suspect that your “many people consider” all tree boles to become fire hazardous snags.
      Even many firefighters inexactly over-generalize when they speak of snags and logs in fire behavior.
      Due in no small part to the dogmatic shrillness of several notable false “fire experts” who are always on the lookout for selecting data (even if fabricated or discredited) that justify utilitarian fiber extraction, we are a long ways away from having a good consensus on fire behaviors, and have even less consensus on how to articulate what we do have consensus on. Probably the ecosystem about which the greatest confusions exist in that regard is California Coastal Chaparral.

  7. May 25, 2013 3:49 pm

    Thank you for all this information and for helping save our trees!

    I just wanted to post my revised letter:
    Webmaster: This is a public comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Study for the FEMA projects in the East Bay hills. Those projects are described here:
    Look to the hills and know that most of what we see there — all those beautiful trees — will be gone if we don’t stop this project, which is based on greed and lack of understanding the local ecology.

    Most people have no idea that, except for a few small areas with redwoods and oaks and bay, the majority of the East Bay hills parkland is non-native forest. Not one pine in the hills is native. Neither is the magnificent Monterey Cypress. The pines alone create beautiful habitat for plants (including mushroom species) as well as animals, from their beginnings as young trees to the dead snags that raptors and acorn woodpeckers love to perch on.

    We should be grateful for having these resistant, long-lived, beautiful trees because we have no idea how extensive the deaths of native trees will be from Sudden Oak Death. We may end up with only non-native forest. We need more tree diversity, not less.

    The beautiful tall exotic Monterey pines, Monterey Cypress, Eucalyptus, Acacias, etc., are not only NOT a fire hazard, they precipitate inches of water from the fog during the dry season, preventing fires, and providing moisture for native animals and plants, feeding the creeks and reservoirs. Some people whose homes were in danger during the 1991 firestorm saw the flames come right to their eucalyptuses and stop, with the trees protecting their homes, while their native trees burned, and nearby homes without eucalyptus protection burned. (Go under these trees even in the summer and see how green the ground is with plants supported by the non-native trees.)

    Fires typically begin in grasslands, which is where the 1991 firestorm started. This project will result in extensive new dry non-native, highly flammable grasslands in the East Bay hills, instead of the beautiful trees. The erosion and resulting landslides will be catastrophic. At that point, FEMA money really WILL be needed.

    We have an established eco-system which our native animals have adapted to. The trees are alive and feel and give us so much. Ask our native raptors what they think. Red-Shouldered Hawks, Great Horned Owls, etc. PREFER nesting in the tall Eucalyptus, while ignoring the oaks and redwoods. Monarch butterflies also use Eucalyptus. (The brilliant website Death of a Million Trees says that a survey of 173 ornithologists reported that 47% of birds eat from non-native plants.)

    Another aspect is that the Monterey Pine greatly enriches the soil, creating thick humus which does nurture oak, bay, etc. seedlings. But under the drier areas with eucalyptus and oak/bay forest, the soil is less conducive to encouraging new growth, which leaves dry, barren hills where the trees have been killed.

    Once the trees are destroyed, the already-burdened wildlife will die from hunger and loss of habitat. We are also not seeing any mention of the harm done to the environment from eliminating so many oxygen-producing trees, and how much sequestered carbon will be released by their corpses. We’re not only horrified by the plan to kill extensive acres of trees in an environment that desperately needs more trees, but also by the apparent lack of awareness of our local eco-system.

    Most of the few people who know of the plan believe that only a few dead or dying trees will be eliminated, and do not know the actual plan is to clear cut much of our beautiful wilderness, so close to our cities in the East Bay hills. The devastation from the heavy equipment that will be used is being ignored also. The effects of a planned decade or more of highly toxic herbicide spraying is also being ignored. (Monsanto must be thrilled at this project.)

    Most people also don’t even seem to know the plants involved or the local environment. They haven’t seen how raptors, woodpeckers, and other birds use the dead trees for their survival. They haven’t watched how young pines are growing up from the base of their dead mothers, keeping the hills green with new trees. (Some say the Monterey pines are short-lived, yet I’ve known pines who were full grown and enormous more than forty years ago and who are still alive. They live to a hundred and twenty years, and their babies grow up as they die, completing the ecosystem. I have not heard one of the myths about the tree dangers that are true.)

    Most people also don’t know that large sections of our parks in the East Bay hills are almost entirely exotic trees and that their clear-cutting will leave bare, ugly hillsides with poisoned stumps, impending erosion and landslides, the wildlife left homeless, many native plants destroyed, the topsoil damaged, and the beauty gone forever. Few urban areas have such amazing wilderness. What a tragedy to mindlessly destroy it. We should all be grateful for what we have here. No non-native human should disparage non-native plants.

    We’ve seen re-planting of native trees in parks, but have yet to see these trees doing very well. Many die, wasting more money and creating more habitat for exotic broom that people so hate.

    We believe most people would object to this clear-cutting plan as well as the plan to continuously apply herbicide to the stumps of the butchered trees, if they knew the details. Eucalyptus will take an enormous amount of poison to stop its attempts to stay alive and resprout. And what about the acacias? You cut one down, and you have dozens sprouting along the ground, yards away from the original tree. They continue to try to live years after their mother tree was killed.

    No herbicide or the other petrochemicals added to it are safe. Every banned pesticide was once declared safe from studies funded by the pesticide industry.

    The experts who once assured us that DDT, Dieldrin, Chlordane, etc. were safe and saying newer poisons are safe. But the cancer rate continues to rise, as does birth defects, neuological illness, and auto-immune illness, etc. all associated with herbicide use. Meanwhile, how many animals are dying? Once the herbiciding begins, we don’t really know what will happen. We’ve seen how vulnerable areas of the EBRP have been destroyed because someone made a mistake with clearing all vegetation to the ground in an area with rare plants.

    Knowing how toxic chemicals work, we also can’t believe that the herbicides will not make the poisoned plants more flammable.

    We’ve seen California Newts dying horrible deaths after crawling through roadside areas sprayed with “safe” herbicides. Applying herbicides across the hills will result in incalculable deaths of native animals, including protected species, as well as contaminating the earth, reservoirs, groundwater, streams, and bay. Some of the poison will evaporate into the air, adding to our air pollution problem.

    How many cases of cancer, auto-immune and other illnesses, and birth defects will result from the use of these poisons?

    We also believe this plan won’t work, knowing the amazing regenerative capabilities of these magnificent trees. So the use of poison will be far more continuous than planned.

    Another aspect of the plan which shows the illogic is the plan to mulch the chipped trees two feet deep, which, beside increasing air pollution as well as fire risk, will eliminate the bare ground needed by native bees, wiping out the native bee population. This is seriously confused planning because with the non-native honeybees dying, we may end up depending on native bees for pollination.

    We ask, “Why the selective logging?” For those who want our parks and UC Berkeley lands clear-cut, we suggest they start with the expensive ornamental non-natives that are the majority trees at the UC Botanical Gardens and campus, the landscaping of businesses and federal, state, county, and city buildings, people’s private gardens and yards – which, like the hills, would leave almost no vegetation since most of the green we see are from non-natives. (Hypocrite UC even has a book about their many exotic trees on campus.) Why the inconsistency – why are the non native plants in the cities being spared while the wild animals’ homes and food will be destroyed?

    At the East Bay Regional Park headquarters where the meeting with FEMA was held, there were many non-native ornamentals. Those Olive trees, Liquidamber, Arbutus Unedo, etc, aren’t going to be eliminated, so why destroy the trees on trails that many of us know personally and love?

    We ask every human who is against the beautiful exotic trees, what do you have in your own yard? If you don’t want to be a hypocrite, first cut down your olives, roses, magnolias, wisteria, jasmine, apples, peaches, plums, etc. before you deprive wild animals of their homes and food. Most people don’t even know which trees are native and which are not. But 99% of what is in people’s yards and gardens are not native.

    To not have a double standard, we recommend first eliminating all non-native street trees, local park trees, multi-million dollar landscaping of businesses and on federal, state, county, city, etc. lands. There is a reason that the vast majority of city plantings are with non-natives.

    We personally love the non-natives, but want the double standard of human versus wild animals to stop. Why should only the native animals suffer? No non-native human should be giving a death sentence to the native animals who will die as a result of this planned environmental devastation.

    There will be many persuasive arguments for committing this irreparable environmental devastation, but please don’t believe them. We’ve seen terrible harm already done in the name of environmentalism in the Bay Area, such as when UC Berkeley “experts” told Audubon to cut down every plant (they didn’t know native from non-native) in the tiny Burrowing Owl habitat at Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley. Those of us who had been watching the owls for years knew that directive was the opposite of what the owls need and want. When the owls arrived for the winter, one left immediately, while the other two stood forlornly by the stumps of their shrubs from the previous year. (The last two burrows have since been destroyed by being paved over and covered with an “art project” bench, while the ground squirrels who create the burrows are being harassed into making fewer burrows.) Weeding the water plants in the Japanese pool at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens several years ago resulted in almost the entire year’s eggs of California Newts being killed. We have yet to see the numbers of newts there as there were previously. A few hours of well-intentioned work can result in permanent ecological damage.

    For those in the hills who do want the trees cut, I suggest we trade houses and they live in the tree-denuded wasteland that is much of the East Bay cities.

    For those who insist on eliminating non-natives, I suggest we start with the humans, and then the introduced non-native animals who kill millions of native animals each year. And why not kill all the honeybees as well since they’re from Europe?

    There are so many problems and contradictions with this and other projects. I see notices for organized broom removal, yet broom doesn’t directly harm the environment, unlike Hedera Canariensis/Algerian ivy, which can be seen along HWY 13, 580 and elsewhere, completely covering plums, redwoods, and other trees. Those dead trees will make serious fire risk, yet I’ve been pleading with those responsible to cut the ivy, which is easy and quick to do, and they say they don’t see it or are too busy. In many parks, ivy is destroying everything, including the attempts to restore Sausal Creek. As the bird eat the fruit and spread the seeds, ivy will continue to spread into the parks, eventually killing everything. Why does this project not focus on removing the ivy?

    The animals, as well as the trees, are not just “things” in humans’ territory. te killing of living, feeling beings is being planned. When people are often depressed from the dark and rain in winter, the gorgeous acacias bloom brilliant golden for two months. The broom with their yellow, exquisitely fragrant blossoms bloom for months during winter and spring.

    Please learn who this project will actually benefit. Find out the details before it’s too late.

    Please know that if this “project” begins, it will be far more destructive than they have told anyone. Expect the worst.

    Expect to look up into the hills and see burnt grass where we now see extensive woodlands. Recognize the trees in the parks you love and realize some parks will be completely empty of trees. Expect catastrophic fires and terrible landslides when the trees are gone. Expect damage to the waterways from the erosion.

    The FEMA money is desperately needed elsewhere. Please do not waste this money by making a few people rich at the expense of the people, animals, environment, beauty of our parks. Please don’t create a new environmental disaster under the guise of preventing one.

    This site describes the planned devastation: Death of a Million Trees

    FIRE!!! The Cover Story

    Here is a condensed version highlighting the most important points:

    1. The proposed plan of eliminating exotic trees will cause more wildfire danger, not less, by leaving tons of dead wood on the ground, by causing more flammable grasslands, which is where fires start, by eliminating shade and fog drip which moistens the forest floor, by destroying the windbreak barriers, and by killing the trees who help prevent fires. There are much cheaper ways of reducing fire danger.

    2. Many native trees are extremely flammable, but Eucalyptus are NOT a fire hazard, and have been demonstrated to help forests prevent and contain fires. (A member of the Hills Conservation Network testified at the first FEMA public comment meeting that the 1991 fire came close to her house, but stopped at three tall eucalyptus trees up the street that did not ignite and may have blocked the fire and the wind, which changed direction to go up the street, burning all the houses in the wind’s path. She also told of a neighbor’s tall eucalyptus and redwood that grew beside each other. The redwood ignited and burned to the ground, but the eucalyptus did not ignite, even though it was cut down after the fire.)

    3. Why would anyone kills hundreds of thousands of huge trees, some over a hundred years old, when we desperately need them for cleaner air and to prevent climate change?

    4. The eco-system is already changed to where native animals rely on, need, and often prefer non-native trees for survival. Killing those trees as well as the horrific use of machinery will destroy the land and kill millions of native animals, including some endangered, who will die as a result of being deprived of their food and homes.

    5. The clear-cutting will destroy the East Bay forests from Richmond and El Sobrante through Berkeley to Castro Valley. Almost 600 acres are proposed, so that some parks will have almost no trees left.

    6. Ten years of using thousands of gallons of toxic, dangerous herbicides in the parks are planned, which will cause cancer and other illnesses, as well as killing native animals and making the parks unsafe to use. We believe the poisons will increase flammability also.

    7. Sudden Oak Death is increasing and spreading throughout the native forest, killing the many Oak species, unrelated Tanoaks, and other trees. No one knows if all the native trees will die as a result. Every non-native tree who is not vulnerable to this disease should be treasured and not killed.

    8. Without the tall trees gathering moisture from fog, there will be less water for all the plants and animals and increase fire danger.

    9. The project involves massive burning, which will add to air pollution and global warming, and could spark wildfires.

    10. The planned chipping and mulching of 2 feet will destroy native bee populations.

    11. The clear-cutting of hundreds of thousands of trees will eliminate the shade canopy which people need when going to parks, as well as destroying the beauty of the parks.

    12. Most of the people affected have no idea they will be losing their beloved parks.

    When our trees are gone, so will the animals and our parks be gone. WHY is desperately needed money being spend on such a disaster?

    • lauren permalink
      June 1, 2013 4:23 pm

      Thank you Bev Jo for your very clear and thorough comments. I totally agree with you and have posted your highlights on my Facebook page as I am trying to gather as many supporters in favor of saving the trees, the wildlife, and in addition, supporters in favor of protection from TEN YEARS of poison being poured into the environment.
      I wish that human beings would not think that their short life spans trump everything else on the planet: animals, trees, insects, birds…everything really.

  8. Bob Strayer permalink
    May 30, 2013 7:57 am

    This is a specious article. The author is totally misrepresenting the 2007 Broadway terrace fire.

    Humidity was high. There wasn’t much wind — that helped. What didn’t help was the dense growth of eucalyptus trees.

    Capt. Cedric Price: “Yesterday, because of the location and the density of them, made it very difficult for us to access the fire, and again they really contribute to the spread of fire.”
    Capt. Cedric Price: “Really, it’s almost like an area of matchsticks, basically, because they’re a highly flammable vegetation. They have a lot of oil on the leaves, and really they contribute to a very explosive fire.”

    Emphasis mine.

    Webmaster: Nonetheless, the brush and grass burned and the eucalypts didn’t.

    There is more oil in the leaves of native bay trees and their fuel ladder goes to the ground. The question is not whether non-native trees will burn. Rather the queston is whether they are more flammable than the vegetation that is being promoted by native plant advocates.

    The fire department would undoutedly prefer that there be no vegetation when they fight a fire.

    The authors of the FEMA technical report on the 1991 fire are scientists and many members of the Mayors’ Task Force were also scientists.

    Your second comment on this article is repetitive and will not be posted,

  9. May 30, 2013 4:04 pm

    I think it would be fair to say that Eucalyptus, once afire, burn hot very hot and thus “contribute to a very explosive fire”. However, because of their configurations (locations and densities of oil, branches, leaves, etc) and because of their other physics (condensation and deposition of moisture promoting green ground vegetative growth, wind breaking, etc.) they resist ignitions. Wildfire dynamics are multi-dimensional and each with different aspects, all of which need to be considered in the puzzle.

    • May 30, 2013 6:38 pm

      Nowhere near a perfect analogy, but think about this: Once a stack of old tires gets burning, there is virtually no way to stop it. But have you ever tried to light one with a match or an ember or an electric heater?

  10. elizabeth permalink
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  12. Marigold permalink
    July 12, 2015 9:44 pm

    I’m reading a book on evolution: The Time Before History by Colin Tudge. Page 261
    “Australia’s native eucalyptus, with five hundred or so species, has become one of the world’s most successful genera of flowering plants precisely because it is effectively fireproof. Eucalyptus sheds its outer bark to form an innocuous tinder on the forest floor while maintaining an iron-smooth trunk on which the flames can gain no hold.”
    I thought this was most interesting, and thought I’d share it.

    • July 13, 2015 6:33 am

      Thanks, Marigold. I have read Tudge’s book The Tree, in which he says much the same thing. The vegetation in Mediterranean climates, such as California and much of Australia, is adapted to and dependent upon fire. Winter rains produce copious vegetation and the long, dry summer dries the vegetation which is then very flammable. If you watch our local evening news, you will see that most of our fires in California start in grass. Plants that cannot recover from fire are not sustainable in a Mediterranean climate.

      I recommend Jon Keeley’s (USGS expert on fires in California) excellent book about fires in Mediterranean ecosystems. He tells us that there are over 200 species of native plants in California that will only germinate after a fire and they are gone from the landscape within 3-5 years without fire.

  13. Sam Belfield permalink
    February 9, 2020 3:53 pm

    Interesting reading this thread. From Down Under I wanted to add this recent article by Australian Biologist Jeremy Griffith to the conversation.


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