Increase in sudden oak death may have helped fuel deadly North Bay fires

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A U.C. Berkeley professor says a sharp increase in the spread of sudden oak death may have contributed to the intensity of the North Bay wildfires.

A survey organized by U.C. Berkeley showed a three-fold increase in infection rates over the last two years.

Trees affected by sudden oak death have low moisture levels, meaning they can burn much hotter than a healthy tree.

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Some of the fires in Sonoma and Napa counties were in areas with heavy sudden oak death infestations.

"So, what I did I went and looked at the areas that burned in Sonoma and Napa counties and of course those areas that burned hot were also hotspots for sudden oak death," U.C. Berkeley Professor Matteo Garbelotto said.

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Professor Garbelotto says oaks are infected when it rains a lot.

And the past winter was very wet.

He adds that knowing where sudden oak death has spread can help manage the fire hazard presented by the disease.

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