Anticipating Wildfire in 2019: Insights from the 2018 Camp Fire

CITRIS Policy Lab
Jul 2, 2019 · 2 min read

By Louise Comfort, Professor, University of Pittsburgh & Lecturer, UC Berkeley

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As the 2019 fire season begins in California, with Red Flag alerts in Butte County and eight other counties in Northern California, it is sobering to review the conditions that fueled the devastating 2018 Camp Fire. What potential actions could reduce risk of new conflagrations in 2019? An interdisciplinary research team of UC Berkeley faculty and graduate students reports a set of key strategies from a recently completed study on mitigating wildfire risk in a changing ecological, economic, and social climate.

1. Changing wildfire risk requires adaptation in budget and capacity for collective action

The need for increased monitoring of sensitive conditions such as temperature, flammability of ground cover, technical infrastructure for communications, water, and power require public investment in the science and technology of managing wildfire risk.

2. Cognition to action — Informed residents take responsible action to protect the community as a whole

Informed community residents represent a major resource in acting collectively to reduce risk for the whole community.

3. Learning from prior experience increases coordination in complex events

Translating insights gained in other, relevant, large-scale, complex events for application to wildfire risk reduction increases the capacity of community organizations to act in coordinated effort to reduce shared risk.

4. Intersection of science, technology, and human organizations creates a new, interdisciplinary science for managing wildfire

No single discipline, no single organization can anticipate or contain wildfire alone. Confronting the hazard of wildfire requires a complex set of interacting socio-technical systems that can learn and adapt to rapidly changing risk conditions.

5. Need: Innovative approaches, new technologies, organizational designs and science

Deeper knowledge of science underlying wildfire hazards, well-designed sensors, systematic data collection and analysis, regular monitoring of changing conditions, and innovative modeling are critical to manage the known risk of wildfire.

Engaging the scientific and technical resources of the ten campuses of the University of California to contribute to these shared strategies would constitute a bold step toward building a statewide map of wildfire risk and a knowledge base of resources for effective wildfire risk reduction.

The CITRIS Policy Lab, part of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute, supports interdisciplinary research, education, and thought leadership to address core questions regarding the role of formal and informal regulation in promoting innovation and amplifying its positive effects on society.

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