Fuels Management - Act or practice of controlling flammability and reducing resistance to control of wildland fuels through mechanical, chemical, biological, or manual means; or by fire, in support of land management objectives.
Wildland fire behavior is controlled by three factors: fuels, weather and topography. Because it is impractical to control the weather and topography around us, the only practical way to modify fire is by managing its fuel source. Fire fuel refers to anything that has the ability to burn and spread fire, like trees, shrubs and dried grass.
The East Bay Regional Park Fire Department uses several different methods to modify or reduce the amount or availability of wildland fuels for any fire that may occur. Ladder and surface fuels such as grass, brush, forest litter, and down logs and branches are modified or removed by hand crews, prescribed fire, mowing, weed-eating, masticating, or animal grazing. Dense tree stands are often thinned to remove some of the trees that typically contributes to fuel loading and to reduce the potential for wildfire to spread in the tree canopies.
For more information about different Fuels Management treatments see Fuels Management Techniques [PDF]
The EBRPD Fire Department follows the Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan as a guiding tool for what fuel management approaches should be used throughout the East Bay Parks. The plan is consulted for strategies to implement the various types of fuels management processes. Because the execution of any project will affect the surrounding environment, the associated Environmental Impact Report (EIR) informs concerned parties about the anticipated effects of implementing the plan.
You can find both resources on the East Bay Hills Wildfire Hazard Reduction And Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Report.
In compliance with the Plan and Environmental Impact Report, the District Fire Department creates an annual work plan of fuels treatment projects. The success of the projects depends largely on the collaborative work that is done with Park Stewardship, Park Operations, park supervisors, and other departments.
In 2020, Park District staff began to notice signs of decline and leaf loss in trees across a broad swath of East Bay parklands, most notably in the East Bay hills and northern shoreline parks. The principal species affected are eucalyptus species, Monterey pine, acacia, and some native trees and shrubs to a lesser extent. It is unknown at this time how the problem is affecting the trees and whether is it causing simply dieback of leaves and branch tips or entire tree death. The likely cause is related to the several recent severe droughts with potential secondary cause of fungal infection and insect damage.
The East Bay Regional Parks Fire and Stewardship Departments are collaborating with other agencies and with CalFire to address a response to the dieback. EBRPD continues to monitor the situation and is working to direct resources to mitigate the potential for increased fire risk as a result of the increase in dry and dead fuels. Staff has mapped the extent of the dieback areas and will continue to update this mapping as the effect of summer drought continues.
Download: Mapped Dieback Areas [PDF]
Following initial treatment, long term and continued maintenance is performed to ensure the identified treatment area will continue to be effective. Maintenance activities are scheduled based on ongoing inventories and assessments conducted by Fire Department Fuels Management staff. The most appropriate techniques and methods are chosen and implemented at the most appropriate time to have the greatest efficacy and resultant reduction in fire hazard.
Maintenance activities are performed throughout the year by the Park District’s Fire Department Fuels Crew, Firefighters, East Bay Conservation Corps., California Conservation Corps., Cal Fire hand crews, tree contractors, and sheep, goat, and cattle grazing contractors.
The fuels management objectives for a treatment area determines the technique and timing of maintenance work to reduce fire activity, rate of spread, and ember production. Weed whacking, mowing, grazing, and prescribed fire are techniques used to reduce accumulated regrowth of fine fuels while thinning and pruning with chainsaws, brush mastication, chipping, and prescribed fire are used to reduce accumulated medium and heavy fuels and also decrease the vertical continuity and break up the horizontal arrangement.
Visitors to the East Bay Regional Parks may encounter cattle, sheep or goats grazing on the grasslands. The District uses grazing animals as a practical and economic resource management tool. Grazing helps reduce fire hazards by controlling the amount and distribution of grasses and other potential fuel. Around urban settings, goats are often used in conjunction with human work crews and prescribed burns to create fuel breaks –a proactive effort to manage future wildfires.
The goat grazing calendar is only an estimate. Park operations, weather, fuel height, and innumerable variables can impact the completion dates. We schedule in target dates to help manage the contract. We review each site for completion on the target date. Contractors receives payment for each site completed.