Thursday, October 25, 2007

Burning Chaparral

Chaparral is one of the primary plant fuels for the continuing wildfires in southern California. The Wall Street Journal interviewed an advocate for low-impact fire prevention in chaparral areas.

The founding director of the California Chaparral Institute, Mr. Halsey has spent four years defending the existence of chaparral, the term given to the wide varieties of shrubby plants, trees and bushes that dot the region's hilly landscape. His Web site,, celebrates its diverse plant life, seasonal ponds that gleam like "liquid sapphires" and birdlife that includes bushtits and towhees.

"I awaken each morning to a view of old-growth chaparral coating a nearby mountain like a carpet of green velvet," he writes. "The first sound I usually hear is that of the wrentit, a secretive, little bird with a descending whistle that mimics the beat of a bouncing Ping-Pong ball."

On Tuesday, Mr. Halsey found himself standing on the roof of his century-old home, garden hoses at the ready, as wildfire spread across the chaparral and torched houses a quarter-mile away. The Witch Fire, as the conflagration was named, was bearing down on his town of Escondido, Calif., just northeast of San Diego, feeding off the bushes Mr. Halsey has fought to save.
The whole article is worth a read, as a look at the issues in fire prevention in California's natural areas.