What Vegetation Burns?

Recently, there was a small fire on the slope above Laguna Honda reservoir in San Francisco. UCSF sent around a photograph, and emphasized that it was near Mount Sutro Forest.

It was. But it was on the area that is now and may always have been Native Plant scrubland. It was a brush fire. Here are some photographs (photo credit J. Kessler).

Native Plant fire scorch above Laguna Honda San Francisco 1

Photo credit: J. Kessler

Native Plant fire scorch above Laguna Honda San Francisco 2

Photo credit: J. Kessler

Native Plant fire scorch above Laguna Honda San Francisco 3

Photo credit: J. Kessler

As the pictures show, the native plants and grasses are dry, and that’s what caught fire. Grass fires and brush fires ignite easily and move fast. Fortunately, the SF Fire Department dealt with this one and there was no damage.

CREATING FLAMMABLE CONDITIONS

This fire underlines our concerns about the plans for Mount Sutro, which would involve cutting down most of the trees and removing the understory. This will make the forest drier, more windy, and more flammable.

While using the threat of fire to achieve the Plan, they can actually intensify the fire hazard.

San Francisco RPD’s Natural Areas Program (NAP) should also pay attention.

This Native Plant scrubland represents the kind of vegetation that NAP seeks to achieve in many of its “Natural Areas. It may in fact be the pre-1769 vegetation at this site (which, incidentally, has not been invaded by the eucalyptus from the nearby forest). There’s no record that it was planted or grazed. 

If NAP is successful, they will also be creating flammable landscaping. And since most of the Natural Areas in San Francisco are close to homes and other buildings, this is more concerning than, say, the increased flammability of Angel Island (where there was no record of vegetation fires until nearly all the eucalyptus was removed –  but several fires have burned there since, notably a large one in 2008).

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