Here's how Stanford researchers are studying wildfires to mitigate risk as fire season approaches

Dustin Dorsey Image
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Stanford studying wildfires to mitigate risk ahead of fire season
Researchers at Stanford taking advantage of the wet weather - burning debris for wildfire management in Portola Valley ahead of fire season.

PORTOLA VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- You may have noticed some smoke along the Peninsula Monday in the Portola Valley.

It was deliberate. Researchers at Stanford taking advantage of the wet weather - burning debris for wildfire management this week.

With the rainy season winding down, the fire season is coming up fast.

Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve researchers say there's a clear way to prevent them: low-intensity fires reduce wildfire risk by 60%.

"Fuel reduction, wildfire management, risk mitigation is a community-level effort," Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve Stewardship Scientist Sheena Sidhu said.

"We have to work together. If one person is doing something over here and one person is doing something over there, if it's not connected and a fire were to come through, that would be a risk. But, if we all work together, that's when you're going to get the best risk-mitigation."

The team from Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve is doing their part with these pile burns.

Unlike more common prescribed fires, this style of fuel reduction is smaller and easier to control.

It creates a safety barrier for nearby homes and the preserve.

"When we're burning fuel, we're actually removing the fuel out of the system," Sidhu said. "Instead of just rearranging it when you cut things and put it on the ground, which is an excellent way to do things like when you chip material. But when you're burning it through, there's nothing left to burn."

There's educational benefits from this burn as well.

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Stanford students and researchers can use this to study low, medium and high intensity fires to learn more about the impact on the environment.

It's a flame-filled, first-hand experience.

"When we're looking at the range of different outcomes of the fire, we can have some control," Sidhu said. "And then translate that into when real wildfires happen or other types of burning."

Jasper Ridge specializes in research, education and conservation.

Executive Director Jorge Ramos says these burns bring all three of those elements together like never before."This is the first of many of our bigger mission and the bigger vision that we have here at the preserve," Ramos said. "We're starting with an ecology foundation, studying what's happening to the system. But also, this will open up opportunities for research, education and stewardship."

In the hopes to bring wildfire management to a whole new level here in California.

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