5:58pm

Thu October 10, 2013
Health, Science, Environment

After the Rim Fire: A conversation with Scott Stephens

This is fire season. All you have to do is look around you to see the effects. 3,100 acres were blackened atop Mt. Diablo in September, and at the end of last week, at least three grassfires burned simultaneously, shrouding the East Bay in a dense cloud of brown smoke.

Every fire season, high dry winds and careless campers add to the incidents of wildfires. This summer, the worst was the Rim Fire--a massive forest fire that burned 400 square miles across the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

The Rim Fire threatened to contaminate the Hetch Hetchy reservoir--the primary source of the Bay Area’s water supply -- and raised questions about and the complex role human beings play in managing this elemental force. Scott Stephens, a UC Berkeley professor who studies how wildfires work, describes how the forest looks in the aftermath and how it will recover in the coming months and years.

“Well, it just looks like tens of thousands, millions of big black sticks, and sticks are standing straight up. The change in habitat has been profound. Some people call California the Golden State, I call it the pyro state. It really is a fire environment.”

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