“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” That old margarine commercial was lame back in the 1970s, but the quote is so true. Inadvertent interference with the natural process of wildfires has unfortunately increased the combustibility of the flora of forests and wildlands throughout California. No one really meant to interfere with the process. It is just what happens when we need to protect our homes and properties from fire.
The longer the vegetation is deprived of fire, the more overgrown and combustible it becomes. If deprived of fire long enough, many plants start to succumb to insect infestation and disease, and they become more combustible as they deteriorate and die. To make matters worse, so many of the exotic (non-native) plants that have been introduced into California are just as combustible, and some are even more combustible than native flora!
Combustibility is certainly no accident on their part. It…
The CZU Lightning Complex Fire started two and a half months ago, and finished five and a half weeks ago. I was already away in the Santa Clara Valley when the region here was evacuated ahead of the fire, and could not return for several days, but found that the fire got no closer than a mile and a half from here. Smoke from other fires continued to darken the skies for weeks.
Life here is very different is some ways, but surprisingly unchanged in others. I had managed to avoid two of my properties that are within the burn zone. I finally saw them last week. They are completely undamaged. However, some of the homes in the neighborhood are completely gone. It is so disheartening. There was nothing to lose on my properties, but they did not burn.
One of the properties is unused. It is inhabited by a circular clonal colony of redwoods, a few solitary redwoods, a few tan oaks, and very few miscellaneous trees such as bays and madrones. All of the trees that are not redwood should have been harvested for firewood. Vegetation management on a much larger scale decreases combustibility of formerly clear cut forests like this.
The other property is naturally inhabited by several mature tan oaks and many of their offspring, as well as a few bays, very few canyon live oaks, and only a few big redwoods. Exotic plants were added because it is a good place to grow them before relocating them to other gardens. I would prefer to harvest all trees that are not redwoods, for firewood, as for the other property.
With proper vegetation management, this second parcel could be used to grow bare root commodities, such as sycamores to be planted as street trees in Los Angeles. Fourteen or so fig stock trees already live there. They provide cuttings for propagation. A few are culturally significant cultivars of the Santa Clara Valley. A few species that I brought from Oklahoma live there too.
Nonetheless, these six pictures show a bit of how the neighborhood appears now. There is certainly not much remaining to see. Actually, there was not much to see prior to the fire. It is easy to see the forest, but not the trees. (That sounds backward.) I posted these pictures because a few readers had asked about the situation here. There is too much missing now for six pictures.
1. Below the middle of this picture, a road is barely visible. The parcel in the foreground burned. The foliage to the lower left is that of a tan oak that broke and fell across the road afterward. The scrawny stumps remain from burned tan oak saplings. I do not know who cut them, or why they were cut already. My property across the road did not burn, but is very ashy and gray. A home that was up on the ridge in the distant background, about where the sun shines through, is now gone. I do not know the condition of several homes beyond that. I did not go up there.
2. Tan oak saplings to the left were roasted but not incinerated as bramble burned below them. My property to the right did not burn. Only the rhubarb, which my great grandfather gave to me before I was in kindergarten, is missing. It might have been trampled by firefighters, or whomever installed these odd flexible water pipes that deliver water to surviving homes. Original pipes and associated infrastructure were damaged. If the rhubarb will not regenerate, I can get copies of the same from other gardens. This is the sunnier property where I can grow things.
3. Fig stock trees did not even wilt! The stock tree in the background to the right is one of the culturally significant cultivars of the Santa Clara Valley. I believe it is a ‘Honey’ fig of some sort. I should remove all the tan oaks and their many offspring from this site, both to decrease combustibility, and also to increase sunlight for the stock trees and other desirable vegetation here.
4. Stumps of burned tan oak saplings are already regenerating on another property. They do so very efficiently after fire. They will be combustible before the end of fire season of next year.
5. A neighbor lived here. Ironically, all that remains of his home is the unburned firewood to the left. Because the home was an old non-compliant lumberjack’s cabin, replacement is unlikely.
6. This is what remains of the same neighbor’s car. He must have been away prior to evacuation, like I was, but without the car. This was directly across the road from unburned vegetation.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: