TWO MAIN TYPES OF WILDFIRE
1) CROWN FIRES
2) MIXED-SEVERITY FIRES
The important thing to remember about forests characterized by mixed-severity fire is that the size of the burn patches varies depending on weather and climatic conditions. Long-term drought, low humidity, and wind can create conditions where a huge, high-severity fire "patch" can take out hundreds of acres of trees, burning through both dense and sparsely forested areas.
Each Ecosystem has its Own Special Relationship to Fire
To find out more about each fire type, please click on description above.
Fire as a Disruptive Force
If you have a home, you likely have fire insurance. Why? It certainly doesn't mean fire is good for your home and that you should be burned out every 30 years. You have fire insurance so you and your family can rebuild after the fire. It's the same for chaparral. Many chaparral species have adaptations that allow them to create a new, pyrogenic habitat and carry on. They don't "need" to burn, but have the adaptive insurance to survive in the event a fire occurs.
Since fire has been a recurring, although infrequent event for millions of years in the chaparral, only those species that have adaptations allowing them carry on after the flames will persist. How do they do this? Many chaparral plant species take advantage of some fire cue or post-fire environmental condition for maximal reproductive success.
Before humans arrived on the scene, the fire return interval for chaparral was on the order of 30 to 150 years or more. But humans have caused fires to increase dramatically, especially in southern California. With climate change, the southern California fire pattern is heading north.
So, it's better to think of chaparral plants as not "fire-adapted," but rather adapted to a particular fire regime or pattern. Change the pattern (season of burn, frequency, intensity, etc.) and chaparral's continued existence is threatened.
Learning About Fire
Unfortunately, there are also a tremendous amount of misconceptions about fire that many of us pass along because we have heard them so many times. To create a new generation of thinkers who embrace the challenge of questioning authority and understanding the world through a logical, fact-based approach, we have designed an innovative Chaparral Naturalist program that we invite you to consider.