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Faculty experts

Wildland fires

FIRE ECOLOGY & MANAGEMENT; WEATHER PATTERNS & CLIMATE CHANGE

J. Keith Gilless
Professor of forest economics; dean of the College of Natural Resources; and chair of the California State Board of Forestry ad Fire Protection
Office: (510) 642-7171
E-mail: gilless@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Forest economics and management, wildland fire protection planning. Gilless has conducted research on structural survival in large urban-wildland fires, including the Oakland-Berkeley hills fire of 1991 and the 2007 Southern California firestorm His work evaluated the probability of a house within the fire perimeter surviving as a function of the house's structural characteristics, its surrounding vegetation, and the defensive actions taken to protect it. The results of these studies highlighted the importance of nonflammable roofs and vegetation management programs to reduce fire losses in interface areas. He has also worked on computer simulation models that assist fire agencies in the evaluation of dispatching policies and stationing strategies for firefighting resources. These models have been used by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and other fire agencies to analyze their wildland fire protection plans, and by Gilless and his colleagues to assess the likely impacts of climate change on fire protection in California.

Max Moritz
Associate Cooperative Extension specialist in wildland fire in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Managment at the College of Natural Resources and co-director of the UC Center for Fire Research & Outreach
E-mail: mmoritz@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu
Note: Moritz is based out of a Santa Barbara County Cooperative Extension office and is often out in the field, so email is the best way to contact him.

Expertise: Fire modeling, weather and climate effects versus fuel-related characteristics, chaparral shrubland ecosystems and spatial patterns of fire disturbance. The Moritz Lab uses quantitative analyses of fire history, examining the relative importance of different mechanisms that drive fire patterns on the landscape. A major goal is to use this information to make better policy, planning, and management decisions in the context of climate change.

Scott L. Stephens
Professor of fire science in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the College of Natural Resources; director of the UC Center for Fire Research & Outreach; co-director of the UC Center for Forestry; and lead of the California Fire Science Consortium
E-mail: sstephens@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu
Note: In the summer, Stephens is frequently out in the field, but will respond to email when possible.

Expertise: Wildfire, prescribed burning, fire history, fire in the urban-wildland interface, fire behavior, effects of fuels treatments used to reduce fire hazards, fire policy, the impact of changing climates on wildfire and fire in Australia and northern Mexico. Stephens runs the Fire Science Laboratory at UC Berkeley. Researchers in his lab examine the history of fire in California forestlands and a wide variety of fire-related topics, such as the role of fire in forest and shrubland restoration, the effect of fire on forest wildlife and insects, fire climate interactions, fire behavior modeling using LIDAR data, and how climate and fire interact in a never-logged forest ecosystem with no fire suppression.

William Stewart
UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Managment at the College of Natural Resources and co-director of the UC Center for Fire Research and Outreach
Office: (510) 643-3130
Cell: (510) 318-0377
E-mail: billstewart@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Forest management, resource economics, and watershed management. Stewart has extensive experience with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and was in charge of the agency's research program on fires and forestry. He can talk about the economics of fire prevention and fire suppression programs and how the costs are shared across local, state, and federal funding agencies. He notes that even though regulations are in place regarding defensible space around homes and for counties to distribute up to date fire hazard mapping to current and future landowners, repeat inspections and enforcement will always be necessary to keep up with changing fuels and structures. He also works on the changing rationale for fire suppression funding to reduce environmental damage from wildfires (the original impetus for using State general funds for suppression) to the broader role of protecting private property and safety throughout the year.

PROTECTING HOMES/BUILDINGS FROM WILDFIRE

Steve Quarles
UC Cooperative Extension advisor
Office: (510) 665-3580
E-mail: steve.quarles@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Performance of common exterior building materials and wood-frame housing subjected to wildfire exposures. He conducts applied research on performance of common materials and components, and has an active outreach program consisting of web-based information and workshops demonstrating how homeowners can reduce the vulnerability of their home to wildfire. He recently coordinated and taught California Office of the State Fire Marshal-sponsored classes on the new building code that applies to construction in wildfire prone areas. He also oversees a demonstration building located at the University of California Richmond Field Station showing various building materials, design features and landscape vegetation that can minimize wildfire threat to the home.

Quarles says that protecting homes from wildfire is best achieved by combining vegetation management techniques around the house with an understanding of ignition-resistant construction materials and design. "It is important to remember that the construction materials used in homes act as a system, and we should understand performance implications associated with changes in materials and design," he says. "Don't overlook the importance of embers as the cause of home ignitions that result in loss."

Gary Nakamura
UC Cooperative Extension specialist in forestry at the College of Natural Resources
Office: (530) 224-4902 (based in Redding, Calif.)
E-mail: nakamura@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Nakamura gives fire prevention workshops for homeowners and co-authored a booklet, "Recovering From Wildfire: A Guide for California's Forest Landowners." The booklet discusses how to protect soils from erosion, where to go for financial help and what the tax implications are from fire losses. He has also co-authored articles about reducing wildfire risk through forestry management and home landscaping. Nakamura can talk about prescribed burning, biomass harvesting and other methods of treating forest fuels to reduce fire hazard. He works with community-based groups, fire safe councils, and resource conservation districts to help them understand fire issues and the role and impacts of biomass harvesting on fuels and fire. "There is not enough funding or political will to implement and maintain fire-safe programs without the involvement of communities-at-risk," he says. "They must see themselves as part of the long-term solution to the fuels and wildfire problem, not as mere recipients of government programs."

MONITORING WILDFIRES

Maggi Kelly
UC Cooperative Extension specialist at the College of Natural Resources
Office: (510) 642-7272
E-mail: maggi@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing and landscape change. Kelly's research program is positioned to provide statewide tracking of resource changes related to fire, and to provide the data and expertise to model potential landscape level ecosystem responses to changing fire and climate regimes.

REDUCING WILDFIRE FUELS AND USING BIOMASS

John Shelly
UC Cooperative Extension advisor
Office: (510) 215-4210
E-mail: jshelly@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Forest products, wood manufacturing methods, biomass utilization, physical properties of wood. "Trees, shrubs and other vegetation can accumulate to unacceptably high levels in coniferous forests, oak woodland, rangeland and even in urban forests," Shelly says. "This material can create high fire risk, endanger ecosystem health and threaten forest productivity. Finding uses for this biomass can help offset the cost of managing wildfire fuels and lower the risk of catastrophic fires." Shelly manages a program in UC Cooperative Extension that is helping individuals, businesses and communities find new ways to utilize woody biomass. Current projects are focused on small-diameter trees, forest thinnings, underutilized hardwoods and urban trees.

IMPACT ON WILDLIFE

Tom Scott
UC Berkeley Cooperative Extension specialist and a member of the Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program based at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources
Office: (951) 827-5115 (office located at UC Riverside)
E-mail: thomas.scott@ucr.edu

Expertise: Conservation of wildlife, wildlife management at the urban-wildland interface, and response of wildlife to human disturbances. After the state's catastrophic 1993 fire season, Scott was instrumental in developing subsequent meetings and a booklet on fire ecology, management and policy. He authored "Brushfires in California: Ecology and Resource Management" with Jon Keeley.

INSECT INFESTATION AND FIRE

David Wood
Professor emeritus of insect biology in the Department of Science, Policy & Management at the College of Natural Resources
Office: (510) 642-5538
Cell: (925) 998-8792
E-mail: bigwood@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741 scyang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Wood studies insect and pathogen activity. He has studied the bark beetle infestation of pine forests in Southern California and Arizona. Bark beetles have killed off millions of trees in the region, leading to acres of dead trees and foliage that have provided fuel for some of the wildfires. The beetle infestation has further exacerbated the stress in the forests caused by one of the most severe droughts this past century. Wood has worked on bark beetle biology and ecology for 50 years and has published extensively on the subject. In collaboration with UC Berkeley's Scott Stephens as part of the National Fire Surrogate Research Program, Wood is investigating the interactions of insects and diseases with treatment aimed at reducing both thinning and under story tree density and wood on the ground, which often fuel wildfires. He has also served as a consultant with PG&E on bark beetle tree interactions along powerlines and has been an expert witness in four fires caused by fallen trees in the past 10 years.

IMPACT ON ECOSYSTEMS

Doug McCreary
UC Cooperative Extension natural resources specialist in the College of Natural Resources
Office: (530) 639-8807 (based at the UC Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center in Browns Valley, Calif.)
E-mail: mccreary@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Oak regeneration, woodland management and agroforestry. McCreary has examined the effects of wildfires on oak trees, including how different-sized trees are affected by low-intensity fires and the effects of fire on acorn production. He has also examined the effects of prescribed fires on oaks and identified steps that can be taken to protect trees from severe damage in areas where prescribed burning is used to reduce fuel loads and noxious weeds. Oaks, in general, have evolved with fire in California and are well adapted to survive fire's effects, McCreary says. The trees can sprout back from their stumps, even when the part of the tree that is above ground is dead. Several years ago, McCreary helped produce a paper, "Fire in California's Oak Woodlands," that can be downloaded from the Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program website.


The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources also keeps a list of wildfire experts  in the UC system.