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More fire inspections needed to protect homes from wildfire

Public records show that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), has not kept up with its fire inspection goals in many wildfire-prone areas of California, reported Lauren Sommer on KQED radio, the National Public Radio affiliate in San Francisco.

In one CAL FIRE region in the Sierra Nevada, just 6% of properties were inspected in 2018. In the Bay Area, CAL FIRE inspected 12% of properties. Southern California coastal counties have recorded inspections at higher rates, with some looking at 100% of properties.

"We should be doing more, doing better," said Max Moritz, UC Cooperative Extension wildfire specialist. "We need to have more people aware they are living on a fire-prone landscape and taking action."

The article said the agency's goal of inspecting 33% of homes each year is impeded by a lack of inspectors and resources. Lawmakers in Sacramento are now considering a bill, AB 1516, that mandates CAL FIRE inspect properties once every three years, beginning in 2021.

"There are not too many other ways people will learn about the vulnerability of their own home, other than having an inspector or firefighter at their property," Moritz said.

Fire scientists recommend that the five-foot-zone around structures be completely free of vegetation that can burn.
Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 9:11 AM
Tags: Max Moritz (27), Wildfire (91)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

U.S. food prices could rise due to President Trump's tariff decisions

The cost of avocados, tomatoes, berries, meat and countless other foods - both imported from Mexico and produced in California - could go up if new tariffs on Mexican products are imposed, reported Gosia Wozniacka in Civil Eats.

Last week, President Trump tweeted that the U.S. "will impose a 5% tariff on all goods coming into our country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our country, stop." 

"I assume Mexico will retaliate," said Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center. "Let's all hope this is a bluff and as summer progresses we'll be OK."

The United States is Mexico's largest ag trading partner. In 2019, $25.9 billion worth of ag goods came over the border from Mexico to the U.S. That amounts to 78 percent of Mexican ag exports of products like avocados, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, onions, bananas, mangoes, limes and berries, to name a few.

Americans have become accustomed to purchasing a wide range of foods year round. Retailers look to Mexico, with its extended growing season, to supply fruits and vegetables in fall and winter when they aren't available in the U.S. The timing of the tariff threat makes it somewhat less damaging since we're entering the season when more produce is grown in California and other states, the article said.

Sumner said the real victims of the tariffs could be farmworkers.

"The [large] farmers have built this [cost] in. They have lost millions on other things before, it's part of doing business. But for farmworkers, if a family misses a couple of weeks of work and pay, that could be significant," Sumner said.

A tariff on Mexican food imports could result in higher produce prices. (Photo: Pixabay)
Posted on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 2:08 PM
Tags: Dan Sumner (30)

2020 may see increased number of trees suffering 'sudden oak death'

California's unseasonably rainy spring may trigger more incidences of tree mortality due to sudden oak death, reported Sonia Waraich in the Eureka Times-Standard

That impact may not be known for a while. UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor Yana Valachovic said the spike in tree deaths typically occurs the year following the spring rains, making 2020 a year of particular concern.

“One of the issues that becomes very apparent is that when we have these peak episodes of mortality, there isn't much funding to help us manage those impacts,” Valachovic said.

UCCE research associate Brendan Tweig said land managers must be flexible in implementing strategies to prevent the spread of sudden oak death.

"The disease doesn't go where you think it's going to go and then you're always limited by what you can do at any given location," he said.

The areas where the disease is discovered are treated more heavily, Twieg said.

The treatment strategy relies primarily on thinning infected trees, which increases air flow between the remaining trees. That helps dry out the area and avoid creating the moist environment in which the disease does best.

Sudden oak death bark sampling. (Photo: Evett Kilmartin)
Posted on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at 10:21 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Women fire fighters share new perspectives, ideas and innovation

Historically, fire fighting was a male-dominated field. With broader diversity needed, women are seizing the opportunity, reported The Nature Conservancy.

TNC ran a feature on its website about a prescribed fire on its Disney Wildness Preserve in Florida staffed and managed by an all-women crew.

"Everybody was here to work, and communication went well," said Jana Mott, the day's burn boss and TNC's northern Florida stewardship project coordinator. "It was like a well-oiled machine. There was a high level of professionalism all around. It felt like just another day of doing business on the fireline." 

The article also quoted UC Cooperative Extension fire scienctist Lenya Quinn-Davidson. She is director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council. Quinn-Davidson helped plan and lead the Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (WTREX) in Tallahassee, as well as two previous WTREX. 

Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UC Cooperative Extension fire scientist, said, 'We need to create space for women and men of different backgrounds to have a voice and contribute to this evolution.'

The field of wildland fire has for too long been “so conventional, so static—not only operationally, but also culturally,” Quinn Davidson said. “We see now that it's time for that to change. We need more perspectives, more ideas, more innovation—more creative discomfort. And we need to create space for women and men of different backgrounds to have a voice and contribute to this evolution.”

Read more about WTREX in the article Lighting up a new path: the Women-in-Fire Rx Fire Training Exchange (WTREX) by Quinn-Davidson on the UC ANR Forest Research and Outreach Blog.

Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 11:26 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

UCCE ag assistant Michael Yang is a lifeline for Hmong farmers

Long-time UC Cooperative Extension ag assistant Michael Yang broadcasts a weekly "Hmong Agriculture Radio Show," providing a crucial connection for immigrant farmers with ag information and services, reported Jessica Kutz in High Country News.

“His voice is really important,” said Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UCCE advisor to small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare counties.

During his one-hour broadcast on KBIF radio, Yang plays traditional Hmong folk music, reads through market prices for Asian vegetables, provides timely farming advice, pesticide safety and labor information, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration updates. He started the program about 30 years ago.

“A lot of farmers said we need to be aware of what is going on,” he said. “So I talked to my boss and we were able to get some grants to help the radio announce agriculture (information) to the small farm community.” 

The article said Yang first tried to connect with the Hmong community by going door-to-door, but farmers were distrustful of government meddling. With their radios turned to programming in their native language, farmers listen openly.

UCCE agricultural assistant Michael Yang, left, and Van Thao snack on freshly picked melon during a field visit.
Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 9:25 AM
Tags: Michael Yang (8)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

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