Tag Archives: fire

Live Fuel Moisture Findings at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The Garden is tracking drier than average conditions as we enter high fire season

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department declared May 3 as the start date for the 2021 high fire season for all areas of the county. This year’s severely lower than normal rainfall has resulted in drier fuels, which means the risk of fire ignition and spread have already reached high levels. 

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has tracked local Live Fuel Moisture conditions since 2013. Live Fuel Moisture, or LFM, is the amount of water in a plant’s tissues, by weight, compared to the weight of plant tissues after they are dried. Plants have high LFM in the winter and early spring, when water is plentiful and the weather is cooler. In summer and fall, LFM drops as plants transpire water and soils dry out. The cycle repeats itself annually, with plants increasing in LFM (and decreasing in flammability) following the first fall rains.

The Garden has collaborated with the University of California Cooperative Extension since 2013 to measure LFM in vegetation at several sites, including along Painted Cave Road, at the top of Tunnel Road, and at St. Mary’s Seminary on Las Canoas Road. Our team collects from two common chaparral species: chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) and bigpod ceanothus (Ceanothus megacarpus). 

“Thankfully, chamise is pretty tough and though it has been drier than usual, there has been new growth on our local plants,” said Dr. Josie Lesage, the Garden’s Applied Ecologist. “However, the lack of rain this year means we should be extra careful about fire ignition as the LFM continues to drop this season”

The Garden’s weather station shows that we have received between 45-50 percent of the normal precipitation in 2021. The Garden’s next LFM data will be published online by May 10, and may show the first noticeable drop for this season. 

With the threat of hotter, drier conditions that prime vegetation to burn, we all must be extra careful about potential fire-causing activities to avoid a devastating wildfire season, as human activities are a common ignition source. Carefully dispose of smoking materials, camp responsibly and never leave a campfire unattended, and incorporate fire-resistant plants into your landscape like California-fuchsia. Read through the Garden’s water wise plant guide to learn more about water wise landscaping.

Founded in 1926, the garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and nursery. The Garden is open to the public daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9-10 a.m.

For more information about the garden, visit sbbg.org.

Much More than Lights and Sirens

Firefighters do a lot more than fight fires. 

On any given day, Montecito Fire’s 33 active duty firefighters wake up to uncertainty, not knowing what emergency they will respond to next: trail rescues, sickness, trauma, structure or brush fires, mud flows, or even threats of a global pandemic. 

They are always there, and it is for this reason that we trust them with our lives. For the same reason, you can trust the Montecito Firefighters’ Charitable Foundation with your money. 

Founded in 2006, the foundation’s board is fully comprised of active duty firefighters whose mission is to “provide relief to the poor, disadvantaged, underprivileged, disaster victims and those facing emergency hardship situations based upon need (financial or other distress) at the time the assistance is given, specifically as related to children, firefighters and their families, and burn victims and their families.” With a minimal annual overhead of less than $15,000 for legal, accounting, and other administrative costs, virtually every dollar the foundation receives goes straight towards helping people. 

“We’re just firefighters,” says Aaron Briner, a founding board member and a department Battalion Chief. “We don’t know marketing. But we do know how to work really hard and mitigate your emergency.” 

As a charitable foundation, the Montecito Firefighters’ Charitable Foundation knows how to do one thing very well – issue responsive grants that deeply impact individuals. 

When 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in an Arizona inferno, the foundation provided support to their families. Similarly for an engineer, Cory Iverson, who died in the Thomas Fire. When a local foster youth wrote a letter explaining that she needed help paying for college, the foundation set up a fund. And when a severely handicapped child needed a new wheelchair, the foundation footed the bill. 

Like I said, firefighters – notably, your local Montecito firefighters – do much more than fight fires. The work of the foundation mirrors the work that they do every day: responding to whatever comes their way.  

For the charitable board, the work they do with the foundation is an extension of what they do every day on the engines. “It is simply another avenue to help assist people in their time of need and something I can be part of long after I retire from the fire service,” says Briner.  

Would you expect any less dedication from these public servants who put their lives on the line for this community every day?