A Decade of Fire Mimicry

30 12 2019
Oak dieback

Dead an dying coast live oak trees in Big Sur, CA

The past decade has been a tough one on California oaks. Tens of thousands of oaks have died and many more are in distress, simply because they are no longer being tended. For millennia the Indigenous People of California used, and still use, fire to improve the health of the native trees and forests.

Also over the past decade I and others have been tasked with restoring to health many of these oaks. During this time we have tended well over 1,000 oaks and other trees, with mostly positive, if not remarkable, results. Due to the severely overgrown nature of fire-suppressed forests, applying fire is not an immediate option. Therefore, we have been developing tending practices that mimic fire in ways that benefit the oaks.

Below are a selection of oaks, one per year of this past decade, that have inspired me to stay committed to tending our oaks. Many of these are legacies of the indigenous past and will, with our help, continue to be legacies in our future.

A decade of healing oaks . . .

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Hearst Castle oak – 2010

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Fairfax oak – 2011

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Fire mimicry results from Boulder Creek, CA

15 12 2019

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Last December I gave a talk at the Santa Cruz Public Library on “Living With Fire”. One of the participants asked me to apply the fire mimicry treatments I described on their oaks in Boulder Creek, CA. Here are the results after one year. Note that some of the oaks were diseased, including one that did not survive. Otherwise, most of the oaks are showing a positive response to the treatments.

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Fire Mimicry: Treated vs. Untreated

8 12 2019

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As most of my clients chose to have me treat all of their oaks with fire mimicry, I don’t often get the chance to compare treated vs. untreated oaks in the same landscape setting. However, last year a client had me treat come oaks, but not the others. Here are the before-and-after photos of two oaks that were treated (above), compared to another that was not treated (below). One of the above oaks (Case No. 20181203.2) was infected with a stem canker disease (probably Sudden Oak Death), which was surgically removed in 2018.

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