More than 200 locals who were or knew someone affected by the Thomas Fire attended the Ventura Land Trust’s (VLT) environmental lecture “No Doubting Thomas: Impacts, Management and Our Brave New Post-Fire World” on Jan. 18 at the Poinsettia Pavilion.
The lecture was given by Sean Anderson, Ph. D., departmental chair of the Environmental Science and Resource Management Program at California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI).
Anderson presented graphs, maps and images while discussing how the wilderness areas reacted to the Thomas Fire, the impacts on local ecosystems and wildlife, and what the public could do to help restore the land, prevent erosion and flood damage, and encourage the return of native plants and animals.
The professor said that nine massive wildfires have occurred in the last decade, with the Thomas Fire being fueled by intense winds and flames that would get up to 200-feet long, sometimes shooting straight up or horizontal. The flames at times also moved 30 mph.
“With elevated spark and ignition sources, these fires are becoming massive,” Anderson said.
With preliminary information, Anderson and his research team at CSUCI found that shrub, hardwood, mic woodland, conifer and herbaceous were the common plants that were damaged during the Thomas Fire. Anderson explained that with less intense burns, the heat boils the liquid inside the leaves of plants and steams them to death. He said the Thomas Fire was so intense that it took out the root material of the plant.
The research team also found that 3.6 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) was admitted into the air.
“The fire released as much CO2 into the air than from boat activity or emissions from agricultural activity,” Dr. Anderson said.
In regard to wildlife, Anderson said that not all animals respond equally to a wildfire. When the Camarillo Springs Fire occurred in 2013, larger animals fled to the Oxnard agriculture fields. With the Thomas Fire, animals ran into core areas such as Downtown Ventura. A majority of the smaller animals, such as a rabbit or mouse, did not survive.
Anderson encouraged the locals to report any burned wildlife to bit.ly/firekill to help the research team with their wildlife and road kill study.
“Over many weeks and months, we hope to get more clarity,” he said.
To help prevent erosion, Anderson recommended hydroseeding. He also encouraged locals to be proactive in restoring Ventura County’s land.
“This is the perfect time to focus our effort on actively planting in controlled areas,” he said. “With the winter bringing rain, it is the perfect time.”
Anderson’s full presentation will be available soon on the VLT’s website at www.venturalandtrust.org.