Can California Burn its Way Out of its Wildfire Problem?

A firefighter works a prescribed burn at the Shasta National Forest.(Molly Samuel/KQED)

A firefighter works a prescribed burn at the Shasta National Forest. (Molly Samuel/KQED)

The Rim Fire, which consumed more than 250,000 acres in and around Yosemite National Park this summer, is a prime example of America’s dangerous legacy of putting out too many wildfires. After a century of suppressing the flames, firefighting agencies have let the brush and small trees get so thick, that when a fire does get going, it can turn into a monster.

People who fight and study fire generally agree that one of the best tools for preventing massive wildfires is prescribed burning: intentionally setting smaller fires before the big ones hit. But there are major challenges to fighting fire with fire.

This featured aired on KQED on November 18, 2013. There are a lot more pictures from the fire I went to on the website.


Valero Rail Project Fuels Tar Sands Speculation in Bay Area

Valero, the nation’s largest oil refiner, wants to start using trains to bring crude oil to its Bay Area refinery. But the project is raising concerns about congestion, safety and air pollution in the East Bay city of Benicia – and the connection it may have to Canada’s controversial tar sands.

This aired on KQED on 8/12/13.

Battle Rages Over East Bay Wildfire Plan


Wildfire season in California started early this year, and researchers say the fires are burning stronger because of the dry winter. The news is adding urgency to the effort to prevent fires like the 1991 Oakland Hills blaze that killed 25 people and destroyed more than 3,000 homes. But a proposal to cut 100,000 eucalyptus trees or more has stirred up controversy, and now, a long-running battle over the plan is coming to a head.

This aired on KQED Science on June 24, 2013.

Lawmakers Take a Closer Look at Shuttering State Parks

Mono Lake

In the thick of the latest budget crisis, the state Department of Parks and Recreation has been told to cut $22 million over two fiscal years, and it’s planning to do that by closing 70 parks. Now legislators are debating which parks will feel the blow.

This aired on The California Report on 11/2/11.

At the Peak of Climate Change

Scientists often wish they had a crystal ball when it comes to climate predictions. But there’s a place to get a sneak peek of changes on the way: on high mountain peaks. There, the climate is shifting faster than it is closer to sea level. We join a team of botanists determined to get to the bottom of issue by going to the top.

This aired on The California Report on 9/16/11. There are more pictures and a  post about the GLORIA Survey on the Climate Watch blog.

Between the Landfills and the Salt Hills

In the late 1800s, when the Bay Area was booming, a small settlement bloomed on an island at the southern tip of the Bay. At its height in the 1920s, Drawbridge, CA had about ninety buildings, a few hotels, stores of illegal alcohol, some good poker games, and excellent hunting and fishing. But as the rest of the region continued to grow, Drawbridge faded away. Now it’s a ghost town, off-limits to visitors, and sinking into the salt marsh. I went to take a look at what’s left of the town for the Oakland Standard.