Red Flag Fire Warning Closures at Jasper Ridge
View of smoky skies at Jasper Ridge on November 15, 2018, taken from one of our live-video fire-lookout stations. The smoke is from a fire burning 205 miles to the north in Butte County, the most devastating California wildfire on record.
The recent tragic wildfires in California highlight the need for increased vigilance in preventing fire outbreaks in our area. Climate change has resulted in warmer temperatures that keep vegetation dry and highly flammable for much of the year, a situation that worsens when precipitation is lower than usual. As a result a new normal has taken hold in recent years: we now have a year-around fire season that sees more and bigger fires compared to a few decades ago. In California, six of the ten most destructive wildfires have occurred in just the last three years, and in the West as a whole, the number of large wildfires has increased five-fold since the 1970s.
The steps we have taken to guard against this increased potential for wildfire at Jasper Ridge include closing the preserve to nonessential use when Red Flag warnings are in effect. Red flag fire warnings are issued by the National Weather Service when warm temperatures, low humidity, and increased winds combine to heighten the risk of wildfire to dangerous levels. Closure during these times at Jasper Ridge decreases the risk of ignition inside the preserve and helps prevent people becoming trapped in inaccessible areas should fire move into Jasper Ridge from outside its boundaries.
You can check to see if a Red Flag warning is in effect at the National Weather Service page or the CAL Fire page (which also gives tips on activities to avoid on Red Flag days).
Activities within Jasper Ridge during Red Flag closures are restricted to essential duties by staff and critical research or class activities approved by the appropriate staff member (to request approval contact the staff member with whom you have been working most closely). Tours that have been previously scheduled will be canceled and should be rescheduled for another day.
For tour leaders who also have concerns about smoky conditions from distant wildfires, a surface-smoke forecast is available here (click on ‘Near Surface Smoke). Stanford Environmental Health and Safety provides guidance on limiting your exposure to smoke.
Other steps we have recently taken to mitigate fire risk at Jasper Ridge include reducing fire-fuels in critical areas by thinning undergrowth, coordinating with the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) to remove or trim trees that are close enough to the SLAC power line to potentially create a fire risk, installing fire-lookout cameras that stream live video monitored by volunteers, assigning addresses to most of our gates to make it easier for emergency response teams to get to the right locations, and working with emergency responders to familiarize them with access through the preserve.
We urge everyone to follow fire-safe practices in these times of heightened risk, both within and outside Jasper Ridge. A helpful list of things you can do to help reduce the risk of wildfire in our area can be found at this link.