CAL FIRE Focus on Fuels Reduction 

CAL FIRE engages in fuels reduction work and fire prevention activities year-round. Preventing uncontrolled wildfire spread in the State Responsibility Area (SRA) is a vital part of CAL FIRE’s mission. Fuels reduction activities are a key tool for fire fighters, land managers, and property owners. These activities include the removal or reduction of overgrown vegetation through the use of prescribed fire, tree thinning, pruning, chipping, and roadway clearance, among others. The purpose of any fuels reduction project is to reduce and rearrange the vegetation, creating breaks in fuel continuity that change fire behavior, reduce negative ecosystem impacts and enable fire fighters to protect communities.

Fuels reduction work is completed by dedicated CAL FIRE Fuels Reduction Crews, California National Guard, California Conservation Corps, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and CAL FIRE fire suppression resources including firefighter hand crews and engine crews when they are not responding to other emergencies. In addition, CAL FIRE funds millions of dollars of local projects through its grant programs.

Fuels reduction projects are planned, implemented and funded by several CAL FIRE programs, including: The California Fire PlanVegetation Management ProgramForest Health Grants, and Wildfire Prevention Grants. Some projects may also be completed under the California Vegetation Treatment Program (CalVTP). The CAL FIRE-Office of the State Fire Marshal, Community Wildfire Preparedness & Mitigation Division also has a role in planning these fuels reduction projects that focus on increasing the protection of people, structures, and communities.

Fire is an essential ecological process in fire-dependent ecosystems, such as California wildlands. However, many ecosystems in the state are more vulnerable to droughts, insect outbreaks, severe wildfires, and impacts from a changing climate. Millions of Californians live in or near these wildlands today, and many more depend on the benefits these ecosystems provide.The State has invested a significant amount of funding for fuels reduction work through other departments within the Natural Resources Agency, as well as grants from CAL FIRE to local and non-profit organizations. These projects will begin to be phased into the public viewer along with CAL FIRE’s projects. 

This fuels reduction viewer provides a look at the work in progress this year and completed projects last fiscal year. While this viewer only provides data for the current and past fiscal years, CAL FIRE has increased its pace and scale of fuels reduction, which is available on the linked chart. You can use it from this web page, or launch a full size version in another tabTo see how these projects are helping California communities, read their stories here. CAL FIRE Storymap

To help explain all the features of the new viewer, watch this short video: 


Fuels Reduction Project Viewer

Why?

Fuels reduction is a fire management and forest health activity that alters vegetation and changes the composition of fuels. Fuels reduction projects favor keeping larger, more fire-resistant trees, reduce or rearrange surface fuels (dead and downed vegetation), and remove ladder fuels, which can cause fire to move from the ground into the crowns of trees. The goal of fuels reduction is to change fire behavior and minimize potential negative impacts of future wildfires, by either creating conditions that mimic the role of low intensity fire that once naturally thinned the forest, or to aid firefighters in protecting communities during wildfires, or both. Healthy forests are more resilient to fire, drought, pests and disease.  

Who?

Fuels reduction work is done by dedicated CAL FIRE Fuels Reduction Crews, California National Guard, California Conservation Corps, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and CAL FIRE fire personnel. Through grants, CAL FIRE distributes project funding for fuels reduction in and around communities and wildlands. Grantees, cooperators and stakeholders work within our communities to identify values at risk, develop projects and secure landowner agreements where possible to treat wildlands across jurisdictions.

How?

Prescribed fire and mechanical or hand thinning are the primary methods for doing fuels reduction work. Prescribed fire is an efficient and cost-effective way to reduce fuels where conditions allow, and restores natural ecosystem processes. Before implementing a prescribed burn, the site is often prepared by reducing and removing the amount of vegetation to a safe burning density. Thinning projects are either done using hand tools, known as hand thinning or by using heavy equipment, known as mechanical thinning, or a combination of both. In the case of hand thinning, crews use cutting, grubbing and scraping tools like chainsaws, pulaskis and mcleods, to cut through vegetation, trees and understory brush. Mechanical thinning is accomplished using heavier equipment that can remove fuel from the project site.