The wildlands of California are naturally fire prone. Past land and fire management practices have had the effect of increasing the intensity, rate of spread, as well as the annual acreage burned on these lands. While most of the natural communities of plants and animals have adapted to natural fire conditions, these natural communities are now at risk from catastrophic wildfire primarily due to the hazardous fuel conditions. Also at risk are the communities that interface with these wildlands, including those within wildland-urban interface (WUI) and rural areas. Strategic management and control of wildland vegetation is essential to the safety, health, recreational, and economic wellbeing of California's citizens.
Hazardous fuels are live and dead vegetation that has accumulated and increases the likelihood of unusually large wildland fires. When fire encounters areas of heavy fuel loads (continuous brush, downed vegetation or small trees) it can burn these surface and ladder fuels and may quickly move from a ground fire into a crown fire.
Hazardous fuel reduction generally requires the reduction of surface and ladder fuels. It may also require thinning out dense tree stands, preserving mature sized trees. It can be accomplished using fire, biological methods, chemical and/or mechanical treatments to remove or modify fuels in wildland areas.
For years, managers have recognized the risks of damage to the environment, housing and infrastructure from wildland fire and have acted to reduce wildland hazardous fuels, by thinning, prescribed burning, and other vegetation treatments. Reducing fire intensity through vegetation management can substantially aid in wildland fire containment and control, while creating safety zones for fire fighter and citizen safety.
Fuel treatments are intended to lower the risk of catastrophic wildfires by managing vegetation to modify/reduce hazardous fuels. The goal of fuel treatment projects is to modify fire behavior to reduce environmental damage and aid in suppressing wildfires. Benefits from fuel treatments include; prevent loss of lives, reduce fire suppression cost, reduce private property losses and protect natural resources (control of unwanted vegetation, including invasive species, improvement of rangeland for livestock grazing, improvement of fish and wildlife habitat, enhancement and protection of riparian areas and wetlands, and improvement of water quality) from devastating wildfire.
CAL FIRE funds and carries out various types of wildland fuels treatments, for the purpose of reducing fire hazard or severity, through a number of programs. Programmatic environmental documents provide the CEQA disclosure and analysis for fuels projects carried out under the Vegetation Management Program and California Forest Improvement Program. Fuels treatments that are out of the scope of the analysis of these CEQA documents require additional environmental analysis and documentation.
Links to CAL FIRE's fuel treatment programs are provided below: