Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Ridgetop/Roadside Fuel Break along M5 
Mendocino National Forest
(Photo taken one year after the 2018 Ranch Fire)

*This is article #1 in a series of pro-active common sense wildfire-related forest health management prescriptions ranging from shaded fuel breaks to biomass power plants sited in close proximity to fuel reduction or post-fire salvage projects.


By Don Amador

September 15, 2020


  The numerous mega wildfires that continue their devastating march across the landscape in California, Oregon, and Washington highlight the need for enhanced collaborative efforts between  land agencies, recreationists,  property owners, and elected officials to plan for and implement common sense cost-effective “low-hanging fruit” forest health, fuel reduction, and post fire recovery projects.

Shaded Fuelbreak Info Sign along Highway 88 Corridor
Eldorado National Forest

I believe the wildfires currently burning this season have not been caused by any one person, specific agency, or group.   Rather, they are the collective result of a decades-in-the-making firestorm of a well-intentioned but misguided fire suppression policy, analysis paralysis, lack of capacity, and litigation.


Based on my experience in resource and recreation management, I believe we should focus on common sense and effective forest health projects starting with roadside or ridgetop shaded fuel breaks where a crown fire will drop down – given the right conditions - to the ground and pass through with less severity.


Shaded Fuelbreak Along Highway 88 Corridor 
Eldorado National Forest

The objective of a shaded fuel break is to reduce, modify, and manage fuels within designated areas in order to enhance mitigation efforts in the event of a wildland fire situation. A shaded fuel break does not remove all vegetation in a given area.

These shaded fuel breaks can provide wildlife with important post-fire food and shelter.   These projects can also protect system trails, developed facilities, cultural sites, and dispersed camping or day-use opportunities.  Armoring recreation assets makes good sense and is a wise investment for current and future generations.

Also, local agencies such as the Fire Safe of San Mateo County supports creation of shaded fuel breaks that are placed in strategic locations along a ridge, access road, or other location such as around a subdivision.

Fire Safe San Mateo County Shaded Fuel Break Program


It’s hard to focus on future solutions while deadly megafires continue to torch millions of acres of public and private lands in the West, but working with our partners in a proactive manner and making a commitment to be part of the solution at this time is smart and the right thing to do.


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