PO Box 5426

Berkeley, CA 94705


Forest, chapparal, grass: what burns, and why?

In August 2016, a wildland fire burned quickly through brush and grasses without igniting trees, including eucalyptus trees (top left).  So what vegetation brings fire to your door?

Forests vs. chaparral vs. grasslands: there is tremendous confusion and misinformation about what wildland vegetation is “safer" in a wildfire, meaning posing the least threat to nearby homes.  And what kinds of vegetation needs to be “managed” to reduce the chances of a fire starting, and then spreading—which are two different concerns.  Add to these questions what “management” should be done, if any, and how .  All these questions can be addressed by studying the science of wildfire and specifically how previous East Bay Area wildfires ignited and spread.  


Read one such account of fires over the years on Angel Island, in the San Francisco Bay, before and after eucalyptus deforestation, HERE.


Integral to all these topics, is another that often provokes passionate opinions and discussion, especially for people who were here to see—or live through it: What started, and spread, the infamous, massively destructive 1991 Berkeley-Oakland Hills fire.  That blaze, also called a firestorm, understandably frightens some people to this day. But facts and official reports on that tragic fire are available to analyze.  With these and all concerns and fears of current day residents can be addressed.  Most important, wildfire need not be a palpable, daily threat to hills residents, homeowners, visitors and the general public.

READ ABOUT THE 1991 Hills Fire.