How can California forest fangs survive

Forest fire follow-up care in CaliforniaLeave the burned wood to its own devices

There is this evil saying that California, despite its eternal sunshine, has four seasons: earthquake, fire, flood and drought. This is of course polemical, but in fact there are more forest and bush fires here in the summer and autumn months than in the rest of the United States. Last year, the government agency Cal Fire counted 6,337 fires that burned a total area of ​​more than 1,200 square kilometers. That is about a third of the area of ​​Mallorca. The fires are not always as spectacular as the Bel Air Fire of 1961, when the mansions of numerous Hollywood stars were in Flanders:

"The half-million-dollar mansion of film star Burt Lancaster and the home of Zsa Zsa Gabor are destroyed."

Firefighters often risk their lives even when the flames are contained. But the real work does not begin until the Santa Ana winds have driven away the clouds of smoke. Then the forest administration has to make the right decisions: Are all dead logs felled and transported away? Do new seeds have to be sown, possibly from the air in inaccessible areas? Or do you leave nature to its own devices? The trained ecologist Trent Seager has specialized in the reforestation of forests. He advises leaving nature to its own devices as much as possible.

"In the area of ​​a forest fire, a real forest will only emerge again after 80 years. That is why the tree stumps and trunks have to replace what would otherwise have accumulated over time."

Economic interests play a role

At the same time, of course, there are also economic interests. In California, the vast majority of houses are built from wood. The tree trunks are therefore valuable raw material. In fact, in many former forest fire areas there is so-called salvage logging, meaning that trunks are transported away in order to save the forest. In the meantime, however, government institutions such as the United States Geological Survey are urging that fire follow-up not only take economic interests into account. The biologist Dallas Mount advises local forest owners after a fire how they can revive the forest quickly and in an environmentally friendly manner.

In this educational film he shows a former fire site and explains that the owner has decided to abandon the trees that were killed by the fire. And along the natural hills in the landscape. In this way, they prevent erosion on the one hand, but also serve as food for new plants. And because the dead trees have been felled, the regrowing plants get more sun.

However, with some trees it is important that the increasing forest fires do not even reach them. When the massive Rim Fire threatened Yosemite Park three years ago, the rangers installed a sprinkler system around the millennia-old Sequoias. The sequoias could have withstood the flames, but not the heat. The effort was worth it: all Sequoias survived the fire.