CAL FIRE Climate Change Message from the Director

Climate change is likely to impact California and its citizens in many ways, creating new challenges for government and citizens to protect life, property and the environment. Warming trends will affect the health and productivity of our forests, woodlands and rangelands, and will likely alter disturbance regimes, including wildfire, invasive species, and insects and disease outbreaks.

Research scientists predict significant increases in the occurrence of large fires and the amount of acres burned by the end of the century. Studies indicate that wildfire risks to households could easily increase three or four-fold. Wildfires damage wildlife habitat, watersheds and water quality, timber, recreation and other ecosystem services. Smoke from wildfires reduces air quality and impacts public health. Increased wildfire will strain CAL FIRE's existing wildfire suppression capabilities and likely require costly recovery efforts for reforestation, erosion control and flood prevention.

Government and citizens can, however, take steps together and individually to reduce the impacts of wildfire on our homes, communities and ecosystems. Landowners and managers can restore forest vegetation to more fire-resistant and climate-resilient conditions through thinning, brush removal and stand improvement where needed. State and federal agencies can work across ownerships at a landscape level to strategically reduce fire hazards and risks. Communities and local governments can develop community wildfire protection plans and improve land use planning by avoiding future development in high fire hazard areas. Homeowners can protect themselves with fire safe practices and fire resistant construction.

Given limited new funding sources, we will need to leverage resources among agencies, promote public/private partnerships, and focus on projects that provide multiple benefits. One of the ways we can help fund fire hazard management in wildland and urbanizing landscapes is to utilize the woody material removed in fuel reduction projects for bioenergy production. This provides an alternative to fossil fuel use and an associated greenhouse gas benefit, reduces smoke pollution from open burning, and offers economic opportunities in rural communities.

CAL FIRE will continue to work with the U.S. Forest Service, local government, other state and federal agencies, the private sector, the research community and non-governmental organizations to identify climate adaptation needs and opportunities. Together we can accomplish these objectives.

Ken Pimlott, Director
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

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