WWETAC Projects

Project Title: Sudden oak death and fire

Principal Investigators: Chris Lee, University of California Cooperative Extension; Susan Frankel, Pacific Southwest Research Station; Katie Palmieri, University of California Berkeley and California Oak Mortality Task Force

Status: Completed

E-mail Contact: cale[at]ucdavis.edu

Summary: Land managers, fire suppression professionals, and research scientists have speculated about the relationship between increased sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum)-caused hardwood mortality and wildfire incidence, severity, and behavior in coastal California. Little quantitative data has emerged to measure the nature of any such relationship. The Basin Complex and Chalk fires in the summer and fall of 2008 along the Big Sur Coast provided the first opportunity for observers to confirm or disconfirm speculations about fire and sudden oak death. In an effort to focus research, outreach, and technical assistance, we conducted an information-gathering survey targeted at select personnel who worked on the Basin Complex and Chalk fires, and followed the survey with a series of meetings with land management professionals and scientists to obtain recommendations for how these firefighters’ experiences should inform future research and outreach efforts. Recommendations included more effective provision of needed maps and safety information; future research into the best methods for sanitizing water or ensuring that infested stream water is not used to fight fire; investigation into characteristics of live fuels in areas of increased hardwood mortality to aid fire behavior analysts with predictions; and increased coordination with firefighting agencies for information distribution and standardization of demobilization procedures.

Tanoak sprouts infected with P. ramorum (see blackened
areas on twigs). Photo: Chris Lee, University of California

Project ID: FY08TS40