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Introduction to Fire in California

Articles: Introduction to Fire in California

The University of California Press continues to put out an exceptional series of introductory texts and field guides to the natural history of the Golden State. This latest could not be more timely. Following (hot) on the heels of his introductions to Air and Water, David Carle has addressed the subject that is on everyone’s minds this year—fire in the state’s forests, chaparral, grasslands, and, most importantly, along the urban wildland interface.

By tracing the history of wildland fire and mankind’s response, Carle helps us to understand why the acreage burned this year might be higher than in any recorded year. The native peoples had a profound impact on the evolution of the landscape by encouraging fires that refreshed the fields and forests, assuring a healthy production of food to be gathered and hunted. Early twentieth century foresters, however, believed that the land could hold a more productive crop of timber if fire were suppressed; the impact of this philosophy is now being felt more than ever, as the climate warms, the landscape dries, and the overly dense, long-unburned vegetation ignites with ease.

Carle helps us to understand the critical role that fire plays...

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