Upcoming prescribed burns at UC Santa Cruz

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Pat Goff, Executive Director, Environmental Health & Safety, Office of Emergency Services

CAL FIRE is planning to conduct a number of prescribed burn units cooperatively with UC Santa Cruz and Wilder Ranch State Park through the fall and into early 2018. Notification and updates will be provided to the UC Santa Cruz community when burning is scheduled to occur.

The first prescribed burn is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 7, pending weather conditions. Additionally, a prescribed burn in Wilder Ranch State Park is scheduled for Tuesday and may occur over several days.

The devastating and tragic fires across the state this fall have underscored the importance of thinning out the brush, plants, and other vegetation that can fuel wildfires.

CAL FIRE will thin, pile, and burn vegetation along the lower section of Empire Grade Road, starting just north of Dry Bend Road and going south to Heller Drive. Additionally, CAL FIRE will burn several small burn plots in the undeveloped parts of Upper Campus. The plots where burning is planned for this fall are five to 16 acres each. There are five plots planned for burning this fall on Upper Campus and more than one plot will likely be burned each day of burning. Smoke may be seen and smelled on campus and the surrounding areas on the days of burning.

People are asked to avoid the area surrounding Marshall Fields (by Twin Gates off of Empire Grade) for the next two weeks. A map of the areas scheduled to be burned is online

Burning will not be conducted if there is adverse weather, a fire weather watch, a Red Flag Warning for the area, or if it is a no-burn day.

Additionally, burning will be done in accordance with a Smoke Management Plan approved by the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District. The plan includes provisions for reducing the amount and duration of potential smoke impacts. However, should you experience respiratory symptoms you are encouraged to seek care and follow your personal doctor’s directions. Additionally, N95 masks are available from the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at 831-459-2553 and ehs@ucsc.edu

Benefits to ecosystem

Coastal prairie grassland and northern maritime chaparral habitats within Upper Campus require periodic disturbance to regenerate and persist as open grassland and shrubland, respectively. Years of fire suppression and a lack of other disturbances have resulted in the encroachment of the forest into these habitats.

In addition to allowing a potentially dangerous build-up of combustible fuels, leaving these areas unmanaged will result in the eventual disappearance of Upper Campus’s prairie and chaparral habitats and the suite of fire-adapted species found within them, many of them rare. Due to the already high-levels of fuel in chaparral habitats, vegetation will be pre-treated prior to fire through a combination of crushing and piling vegetation to reduce the risk of fire escaping the treatment areas. Although these areas will look heavily impacted at first, they should recover quickly through a combination of resprouting stumps and roots and germinating seeds.

Email the Office of Emergency Services at oes@ucsc.edu if you have any questions.