What can be learned from wildfires that burn in the urban interface? In September, the Almeda fire of southern Oregon burned hot and fast through much of the Bear Creek Greenway between Ashland and Medford. Burning as a tempest with hot embers blown hundreds of feet, the fire reached into nearby residential and commercial areas of four communities causing astonishing damage over a 10 mile swath.
More than three months on, I reconnoitered the Bear Creek Greenway observing mature tree species damaged by the wildfire to understand the initial extent of tree mortality and also what trees may take the long road to recovery. The landscape is dominated by cottonwoods in the upper canopy and maples, oaks, willows, and alders in the secondary canopy. This five year research work will involve several return visits to confirm findings and track changes.
Characteristics of the fire and landscape include:
wind driven fire – burning ground cover and lower story plants but not a woodland canopy fire
extent of ash and char was typically 1/2″ to 1″ in depth, fibrous roots were found 2″ below the soil surface; significant and dense ground fuels not observed
topography broad and gently sloped
As ecological restoration (seeds, shrubs, and trees) begins, tree regrowth will play an important role in supporting these new plant communities. I hope to apply Visual Tree Assessments to determine liklihood of recovery and promote tree preservation.