Look out for: young leaves that are usually stemless and rounded. Native plants, on the other hand, having evolved here over millennia, are better adapted to local conditions, they say. This is another of blue gums’ talents—its bark makes ideal braziers. The tree sheds bark and dead leaves, which make a perfect pile of tinder under the tree too. That stuff”—the brush—“is going to expand here. We target brush.” He studied forestry and says he can understand the attachment people feel. Underneath are small oaks, bays, and smaller shrubby native species. The protestors I spoke with disagree with Kent: They tended not to believe that the eucalyptus are more flammable or fire-promoting than native species, and they seemed determined to discount any evidence suggesting otherwise, arguing, as Maloney has, that whichever of the tree’s characteristics might promote fire are outweighed by its services. It might indeed get away, or catch houses on fire. We stop at a turnout and hike up a path through tall grass that opens into a field. It’s his job to make sure that if and when this forest burns, it doesn’t take half of Berkeley with it. The German-born botanist Ferdinand Jacob Heinrich von Mueller migrated to Australia in 1847. They are also found in Australia, of which many are native. Not just any fire, but the fire, the fire that all this is about. To really know with scientific certainty, you’d have to compare fuel moisture content, wind speed, leaf chemistry, caloric content, and ignitability. The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. “But I can use my professional judgment. Sometimes, a red resin exudes through breaks in the bark, hence the tree’s other name – the gum tree. The goal, Gallup says, is to get to less than 100 trees per acre, down from as many as 1,700 per acre in some areas. The dead bark and fallen branches are also flammable. The eucalyptus trees easy recovery added with its volatile oily gasses, make it a potentially threatening species for California woodlands and similar areas known to house these trees. 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The Hills Conservation Network, a small Berkeley nonprofit whose members live in the area covered by the FEMA grant, promptly sued FEMA to stop the grant, focusing in particular on roughly 350 acres of Oakland and UC Berkeley property in Claremont Canyon and Strawberry Canyon and around the Caldecott Tunnel, where all nonnative trees—predominately eucalyptus—would be removed. Tucked away inside a rolled-up strip of bark, a fire might live for close to an hour and fly 20 miles. On warm days eucalyptus oil vapour rises above the bush to create the well-known distant blue haze of the Australian landscape. The original question—whether blue gums are uniquely, dangerously flammable—often serves as proxy to these other debates. So do all the experts I spoke with, including the ones with no prior knowledge of the FEMA grant. Scientists speculate that flammable eucalyptus trees evolved to be âfire friendly.â Rapidly catching fire until there is no obvious tinder allows the plant to retain most of its trunk when fire moves on to find more to burn. Sign up today: Letter to the Editor: Protecting Diversity Is the Opposite of Xenophobia, Letter from the Publisher: Rethinking Eucalyptus, How the Australian Eucalyptus Came to the East Bay Hills. “Like, you couldn’t come up with a better way to get that tree to burn.” This tree is surrounded by others just like it; this grove just one of the dozens between here and Lake Chabot, millions of blue gums billowing from the ridgeline like sage-green smoke. “They’re absolutely dangerous plants,” he says. “Eucalyptus is highly flammable and a very dangerous tree.” Fuel reduction projects that target the nonnative trees are not new. By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist. “Every piece of vegetation is flammable,” he says. I’m going to live up to that promise.” The ground around the tree is littered with its bark and leaves, inches deep in places. It’s late September, in a eucalyptus grove on the ridgeline above the UC Berkeley campus. "...Eucalyptus groves seen in the region today (Atlantic Rainforest, 7/8th of which is gone) were planted where there was previously no forest cover. And then somehow—maybe a spark from a car, maybe a tossed cigarette—the whole dry, airy mess catches fire. Eucalyptus trees have a high oil and water content, so the wood must be split and given enough time to dry out before being burned. Native species and grasses produce sparks and firebrands too, Stephens says, but not of the same quantity and quality as eucalyptus. The plant is already head and shoulders above the native species when fire recovery begins. Gallup parks his truck and we get out to walk down the fire trail. This accelerates the eucalyptus fire hazards in a region and discourages firefighting efforts. LSA Associates’ source, in turn, is a 1995 report by Amphion Inc. on the proceedings of a meeting by the Vegetation Management Consortium (which later became the Hills Emergency Forum), a group of local fire management stakeholders and experts. Discover eucalyptus. My third visit to Signpost 29 is with Jerry Kent. -Brad Gallup. But even under the worst conditions, there is the possibility of containing a grass fire, he says. I’m with Brad Gallup, a fire captain with the East Bay Regional Park District. Specialized reproductive structures called "epicormic shoots" sprout from buds on the bushfire damaged trunk of a Eucalyptus tree, about two years after the 2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires. This summer, even without rain, some of the trails were so slushy they were nearly impassable. The air begins to smell of fresh sawdust. A strong wind begins blowing over the hills from the east. They provide interesting color to flower arrangements. It’s the same reason that crumpled newspaper will ignite more easily than a log—a fire requires oxygen, heat, and fuel, and grass and balled-up paper are airier and easier to heat to the point of ignition. Both the FEMA impact statement and Wolf and DiTomaso’s study list the source of the ignitability rating as a 2009 wildfire hazard reduction and vegetation management report by California-based environmental consultants LSA Associates, prepared for the East Bay Regional Park District. From the brush down at the bottom of the gully, there is the whine of a chain saw. Like Maloney, he says he got involved after researching the FEMA plan and coming to the conclusion that removing trees would make the area more fire prone, not less. The most popular of eucalyptus trees in the Golden State is the Eucalyptus … Header illustrations by Jane Kim, InkDwell, Bay Nature Institute “Two, four, six, eight,” they shouted. Essential oils such as tea tree, lavender and citrus oils such as lemon, orange, lime and others have a flash point of about 50 – 60 degrees Celsius so they are classified under Class 3 Flammable Liquids. The shower of firebrands tossed from the ridgeline by the 100-foot-tall trees foils any attempt to create a firebreak. “But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.” But now, standing by Grassetti’s favorite tree, even this most damning of blue gum statistics seems woefully abstract. (510) 528-8550, Subscription Customer Service: There’s no exact number.” When he starts a thinning project, he walks the grove and imagines how it might look without this or that tree, how the canopy would look, how it would look in a decade, in three decades. They call the eucs bad neighbors. "— Fabien Hubert Wagner, forest cover study lead author at National Institute for Space Research - INPE Brazil As its shred-like bark is considered flammable, keeping this debris cleaned up is preferable. When the oils in the tree heat up, the plant releases flammable gas, which ignites into a fireball. The state’s first planting of eucalyptus was made by William G. Walker at his Golden Gate Nursery at Fourth and Folsom Streets, San … But what if you have one in your property and it is also causing distress and worry for the danger that it might cause? Eucalyptus tree removal costs for a tree with a trunk diameter of fewer than 50 centimeters and a height of 2-4 stories ranged from $1,276 to $2,126 in 2018-2019. But, as with the BTU comparisons, there are few applicable apples-to-apples (or blue-gums-to-bay-laurels) studies of ignitability in the Bay Area. Many of the hills on the east side of the Caldecott Tunnel are covered in grass, speckled with drooping oak, much as the landscape above Berkeley and Oakland would’ve looked before Oakland developer Frank Colton Havens planted them with eucalyptus. At this point, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the fire, Brad Gallup says. He is among the pro-eucalyptus faction’s star fire authorities, although his expertise, he admits, is not in wildland fire. His most recent article for Bay Nature was on the Resilient by Design contest and the future of the Bay’s shoreline. The picture this paints is of California and other areas experiencing serious eucalyptus fire damage. A man in a hard hat and orange vest emerges from the bushes, then cuts through another tree. Perhaps as important, Kent says, this side is cheaper. It’s not personal. “We’re trying to change fire behavior, to make it easier to put the fire out, to give people more time to evacuate.” We pass a man in an excavator stacking eucalyptus logs. The natural detritus under the tree is resistant to microbial or fungal break down due to the oils. 3. Bay Nature’s email newsletter delivers local nature stories, hikes, and events to your inbox each week. We turn a corner and stop between a feller buncher (which both fells trees and gathers them into bunches) and a chipper. In front of us on the uphill side of the road is what looks like a group of seven trees but is really a single tree with multiple boles. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. His writing about science and the environment has been published by Outside, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and many others. Now the flames on the ground are 30 feet high and even higher off the boughs, roaring like a jet engine. The East Bay Regional Park District is taking something of a middle approach to fire prevention in the eucalyptus groves it manages, thinning the trees rather than clearing them outright. Still others argued that removing any trees would be irresponsible in an age of climate change, and that native trees would not be able to take up the slack. Eucalyptus gunnii has interesting cream and brown bark and can grow to 80 feet tall.Young trees produce bluish-gray leaves, while older trees produce silverfish-green leaves. > IUPAC name 1,3,3-Trimethyl-2-oxabicyclo[2,2,2]octane They point me repeatedly to both the 1992 Oakland mayor’s task force report and a 2013 report by the U.S. Forest Service’s Adaptive Management Services Enterprise Team. The workers who cut the trees then didn’t treat the stumps with herbicide, and now they’re regrown, more trunks and closer together. Seasoning refers to splitting the wood soon after the tree is cut so that the wood can dry out. I would argue that at best—at best—you broke even.” With inexpert eyes, I look at the brush and trees and debris, and try to imagine how it all might burn. This “shaded fuel-break,” as he calls it, should help slow down fires. Gallup, who has gray hair and thin-frame glasses, is dressed head-to-toe in navy and wears black leather fire boots. If desired, you can collect some seed once it falls, and then plant it in another area of your yard or in a container. But it’s not clear whether the eucalypts simply evolved to weather fire, or whether they actually promote fires. Eucalyptus trees are common in California and the warmer states of the United States. Even a small fire can transform to a major wildfire in eucalyptus forests, due to the huge amount of leaf litter, the oil-rich leaves on the trees, and flammable bark. I met him that morning at the park district fire station at the edge of Tilden Regional Park, and we’ve driven together into the park, stopping first at this overlook along Grizzly Peak Boulevard. The tree sheds bark and dead leaves, which make a perfect pile of tinder under the tree too. After arborists thin the smaller trees, youth crews will clean up debris and hanging bark. In a nutshell, yes. The bark is a blue-grey colour and peels off in strips to reveal yellow patches underneath. But not today. ), which are native to Australia, are highly flammable, with stiff leaves containing abundant essential oils. “That’s a great way to get the tree to burn,” he says. Like the other Australian fire ecologists and eucalyptus experts I spoke with, though, Bowman called the genus in general, and blue gum in particular, extremely flammable. When the oils in the tree heat up, the plant releases flammable gas, which ignites into a fireball. In the middle of the field is a pile of eucalyptus logs, surrounded by waist-deep thistles and grass. The main constituent of Eucalyptus oil is Eucalyptol it has a flash point of 46°C so easily burns. Sign up for our newsletter. -Brad Gallup, EBRPD fire captain. “This is my favorite tree,” Grassetti says, giving it a slap on the trunk. We target grass. The eucalypti grow rapidly, and many species attain great height. We drive next to Signpost 29, for another view of the possible future. About a month after my visit to Signpost 29 with Dave Maloney, I return with Dan Grassetti, founder and director of the Hills Conservation Network, the nonprofit that’s filing suit against FEMA. Eucalyptus trees are widespread in California and have been introduced to many other warm states. We walk back down the hill, sliding in the mud. It is a fast growing plant that has attracted attention for producing an oil that can be used for cleaning and as a natural insecticide. “We’re in our infancy in understanding how flammability can be practically measured and scaled up,” he says. Efforts are underway to eradicate the introduced species and return woodlands to the native species. Berkeley, CA 94710 The trees that remain standing are big and widely spaced. The heat of the fire forms a convection column, with 60-mile-per-hour winds that rip burning strips of bark from the trees and toss them upward. ... Wildfires burn rapidly under them and through the tree crowns. The grove is one of those that were logged off after the 1972 freeze, and the trees grew back just a few feet apart, hung with bark and knee-deep in fallen leaves, bark, and twigs. Eucalyptus is a highly flammable tree and particularly dangerous to have in a wildfire prone areas. 888-422-9628 “Yes, there is some fuel here,” Grassetti says, then gestures to the head-high brush that surrounds us. The 20-odd protesters—mostly white, mostly gray-haired—marched in a circle, holding up hand-lettered signs and photographs of butterflies and trees. Eucalyptus cinerea grows 25 to 60 feet tall in warm climates, but it is often grown as an annual shrub in colder climates, where it reaches 6 to 8 feet tall in one season. Their concerns echoed some of those of the 13,000 people who wrote comments on the first draft of an environmental impact statement FEMA prepared ahead of the grant. There is an art to it, he says. Tasmanian blue gums, Eucalyptus globulus, don’t like cold. Finally, Maloney says, cutting the trees would make the hills drier, both by increasing the amount of sun hitting the ground and because the trees collect condensation on their leaves. 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