Public partnership announced on fire and forests

December 03, 2020

In November, the UC Berkeley Center for Fire Research and Outreach, a research group within Berkeley Forests, has entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), formalizing an agreement to partner on research that explores critical forest and fire issues. Prompted in part by the unprecedented damaging wildfires across the state in recent years, the research program will leverage both agencies’ unique expertise and perspective, in order to collaborate on defining key research topics, methods, and paths for communicating results.

“One of the exciting and novel aspects of this partnership is the collaborative nature of the science and outreach that will be conducted,” says Scott Stephens, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and co-director at the Berkeley Center for Fire Research and Outreach. “Scientists from both organizations will be contributing data and expertise to address critical wildfire questions.”

As forests and wildfire regimes change in response to a warming climate, there is an increasing need to further disseminate research and to promote science-based policies, and to adapt with dynamic forest management decisions. Named the California Initiative for Research on Fire and Forests (CIRFF), the Initiative includes several shared research priorities within the partnership: 

  • Investigations into how strategic prescribed fires and other fuel reduction/forest health treatments can reduce wildfire hazards and bolster the effectiveness of fire suppression
  • Improvements to understanding the efficacy of management tools such as prescribed burning
  • Development of metrics to assess fuel and forest health treatment effectiveness, both at local and regional scales
  • New opportunities for international exchange of scientific information related to wildfire

“Partnering with a strong research university like UC Berkeley will provide land managers critical scientific information about the effects of forest management activities in California,” says Chris Keithley, Ph.D., Chief of the Fire and Resource Assessment Program for CAL FIRE. “This type of research will help shape how and where fuels treatments are applied, and will help us know the most effective methods for a particular community and forest type.” 

With the 2020 historic wildfire season not yet officially over, forest management strategies like prescribed fire and other fuels treatments have generated substantial interest from land managers and the public. Ultimately, the collaboration will ensure that cutting-edge research will be better communicated and used to formulate policy, in a way that benefits the citizens and environment of California.

-This article was adapted from a CAL FIRE press release.