Growing bananas can lower fire intensity in urban areas

Reducing fuels, increasing wildland firefighter resources, and building more firebreaks are all techniques used in tandem to reduce wildfire risk. Still, they often come with high up-front prices and uncertain long-term payoffs. A new study claims to have found a new mitigation strategy that sidesteps both issues: growing and maintaining banana trees with recycled water.

Some regions have considered building physical buffers out of concrete or metal to reduce fire risk, but those have high installation costs, require annual maintenance, and provide no additional revenue or benefits. So this study’s researchers focused on potential “edible fire buffers,” or specific vegetation that could be grown in wildfire-prone areas that would also produce a crop — and help add to the area’s economy.

To find the best candidate, the team modeled edible fire buffers by examining how the conditions of a historic fire would have changed if the crop had been present. The study used specifically the 2017 Tubbs Fire, since it fit the requirements of burning in a semi-arid region, originated in wildland, was spread by high winds, and then caused significant loss of life and property. The fire burned three California counties in October and was at the time the most destructive fire in the state. The research team used satellite, census, and fuel-type data from Santa Rosa at the time of the fire.

The study found that bananas were the most viable crop among its choices after testing multiple other possibilities. Vineyards, the most common high-value crop in Mediterranean climates, were too flammable to be considered viable for the study. Ginger is a low-flammability crop, but requires mechanical harvesting that could eat into potential revenue. Carob trees are low-flammability, high-yield, and high-value — but are better suited for areas where irrigation is unavailable or too costly.

The banana trees’ high water content, minimal management needs, and suitability for semi-arid and Mediterranean locations such as like California, Mexico, Chile, Australia, and South Africa drove researchers to and in-depth study the crop’s suitability.

“A medium-sized (633 m) banana buffer decreases fireline intensity by 96 percent, similar to the combination of prescribed burns and mechanical thinning, and delays the fire by 316 min, enabling safer and more effective firefighting,” the study said. “We also find that banana buffers with average yield could produce a profit of $56k USD/hectare through fruit sales, in addition to fire mitigation.”

The study found that not only would banana trees mitigate fire under current conditions, but the the trees would still have a protective effect as fires worsen and the climate changes.

Here is the full study:Edible fire buffers study

Humans mimicking beavers to combat wildfires and restore wetlands

Researchers in Colorado have built hundreds of dam-like structures in hopes of mimicking a fraction of the success the state’s beavers have had throughout history. Ashley Hom with the U.S. Forest Service co-leads Colorado’s largest beaver-based restoration project — along with many partners. In just two years, this team built 316 beaver mimicry structures, about half of which were BDAs, or beaver dam analogues — manmade structures that imitate beaver dams. Many of them were constructed by volunteers, according to a story by Julie Cleveland.

These BDAs are built using wooden fenceposts and willows that act as a low-cost and low-maintenance structure to protect areas from wildfire while maintaining or improving water quality.

The loss of keystone beaver populations has caused a negative impact on watersheds throughout the western United States. Dams that beavers create slow the flow of spring run-off while raising the water table to keep the landscape wet. Without beavers and their dams, streambanks have eroded, causing snowmelt and run-off to drain too quickly from the landscape.

Beaver dam on Baugh Creek near Hailey, Idaho. USFWS photo
Beaver dam on Baugh Creek near Hailey, Idaho. USFWS photo

“As beavers create and maintain wetlands, the outcomes are vast,” Cleveland wrote. “A lack of beavers has resulted in an increased intensity of drought and wildfires in the West as fires spread rapidly across parched landscapes. Wetlands act as natural fuelbreaks, giving firefighters a chance for containment.”

The effectiveness of beavers against wildfires has been seen in real-time. The 2018 Sharp Flats Fire burned more than 60,000 acres in Idaho, but seemingly left one area untouched.

Loading beavers for transport
Idaho Fish and Game officers load a beaver into a wooden box before he’s loaded on a plane and dropped into the Idaho backcountry. IDFG photo

Nearly 70 years beforehand, Idaho Fish and Game had rounded up and relocated beavers, sometimes by parachute, throughout the state, including the Baugh Creek area.

Beavers in wooden boxes drop from a plane into the Frank Church Wilderness to start a new life.
Beavers in wooden boxes drop from a plane into the Frank Church Wilderness to start a new life. IDFG photo

The Sharp Flats Fire burned all of the land around Baugh Creek, but the beavers’ dams and the wetland they created were left unburned.

The contrast was so stark that researchers at Boise State University and Utah State University teamed up with NASA to start building tools to measure the benefits of beaver reintroduction in other areas of the country.

Post-burn image of the Sharps Flat burn, image by NASA.
Post-burn image of the Sharp Flats burn, image by NASA.

Watch the below video to see what researchers are paying attention to after beavers make their way back to wetlands — beaver rewilding as measured by NASA:

Alert reader Tom Jones sent over some photos he took of the beaver habitat on the B&B Fire in Oregon.

“We were with the NW Oregon type 2 team in September 2003,” wrote Tom. “Robert Alvarado was the Human Resource Specialist (HRSP) and I was the FBAN. Robert liked to go out on the line and talk with the crews to see how they were doing. I went to the line every day, so he would go with me. Each morning after briefing he would ask me, ‘What kind of adventure are we going to have today?’ The last two photos are of me and Robert at Marion Lake.”

Beavers' Fireline, B&B Complex 15. September 2003. Tom Jones photo.
Beavers’ fireline, B&B Complex 15. September 2003. Tom Jones photo.
Beaver Swamp Burned, B&B Complex, September 2003. Photo by Tom Jones.
Beaver swamp burned, B&B Complex, September 2003. Photo by Tom Jones.
Robert Alvarado and BeaverLine, 2003 photo by Tom Jones.
Robert Alvarado and BeaverLine, 2003 photo by Tom Jones.
Fireline put in by beavers on the B&B Complex in Oregon. 2003 photo by Tom Jones.
Fireline put in by beavers on the B&B Complex in Oregon. 2003 photo by Tom Jones.
Robert Alvarado at Marion Lake on the B&B Complex in Oregon. 2003 photo by Tom Jones.
Robert Alvarado at Marion Lake on the B&B Complex in Oregon. 2003 photo by Tom Jones.
FBAN Tom Jones with the NWOregon type 2 team in September 2003 on the B&B Complex. Photo by Robert Alvarado.
FBAN Tom Jones with the NW Oregon type 2 team in September 2003 on the B&B Complex. Photo by Robert Alvarado. (I didn’t know there were crocodiles in Marion Lake, did you?)

from Wikipedia:  The B&B Complex was a linked pair of wildfires that together burned 90,769 acres (367.33 km2) in  Oregon in the summer of 2003. The complex began as two separate fires, the Bear Butte Fire and the Booth Fire; the two fires were reported on the same day and eventually burned together, forming a single fire area that stretched along the crest of the Cascade Mountains between Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington. On the western side of the Cascades, the fire consumed mostly Douglas-fir and western hemlock. On the eastern side of the mountains, the fire burned mostly Ponderosa pine, lodgepole, and jack pine. Most of the burned area was on USFS land, including 40,419 acres (163.57 km2) within the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The fire also burned forest land on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and small areas of state and private land. Firefighters worked on the fires for 34 days.

THANKS, Tom, for the great photos and another
piece of Beaver history in the Beaver State!
 ~ Kelly Andersson


Climate change to lessen safe prescribed burn days, change wildland firefighter schedules

A recent study from UCLA found that a projected 2° Celsius increase in global temperatures by 2060 would reduce the number of days when a prescribed burn could be safely set by 17 percent. The Four Corners region could see as much as a 29 percent decrease in favorable days, while the Pacific Southwest could see a 24 percent decrease.

The main driver behind the decrease in safe prescribed fire days is a combination of a decrease in large-diameter fuel moisture across seasons, an increase in vegetation aridity, and an increase in smoke-trapping low-level stagnation events.

“The narrowing of prescribed fire windows, as well as increases in extreme wildfire burning conditions at other times, will further challenge fire and land management agencies and entities already constrained by limited budgets and growing administrative burdens,” the study said.

However, the study also found that winter may increasingly become a viable season for prescribed fires with researchers predicting a four percent rise in favorable days, especially for northern states. Regions that have historically been too moist or too cool to support prescribed fire may see a boost in safe burn days, assisted by vegetation aridification. Additionally, decreases in safe prescribed burn days mainly affect forested locations, while non-forested areas would see substantial safe burn days.

The study ended by recommending a huge shift in USFS agency fire crew staffing. Seasonal wildland fire workers, who are usually laid off over the winter based on historical burn patterns, may need to capitalize on burn days during winter if safe burn days drastically decrease over the summer. The study also pointed to other research that found winter and spring to be underutilized seasons for prescribed fire in California.

“Our findings provide direct evidence supporting recent calls for an expanded year-round fire management workforce whose responsibilities extend beyond fighting wildfires to also encompass the management of prescribed fire,” the study said. “These findings also highlight the growing importance of tangible support—including increased funding and removal of existing regulatory barriers–for cultural burning practices by Indigenous fire practitioners, including via interagency partnerships.”

Deadline nearing for wildfire defense grants

The USFS Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program helps communities and tribes reduce their wildfire risk and become more fire-resilient. The program prioritizes its grant funding to low-income communities in high or very-high wildfire hazard potential areas, or those that have been affected by a severe wildfire that has increased its wildfire risk.

Wildfire Defense Grants

The program’s two goals are to develop and/or revise Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) and to implement projects from said plans. The program also helps communities restore and maintain landscapes, create fire-adapted communities, and improve wildfire response.

Eligible at-risk communities include:

      • Local governments representing communities at risk of wildfires
      • Native American/ Indigenous Tribes
      • Non-profit organizations that assist at-risk communities
      • State forestry agencies
      • Alaska Native Corporations

Interested applicants can read details at and find instructions in the “notices of funding opportunities” to apply. Applications are accepted until 11:59 p.m. ET on October 31. To apply, follow the instructions online or search for the grant opportunity number specific for your notice (USDA-FS-2023-CWDG-TRIBES, USDA-FS-2023-CWDG-CWSF, USDA-FS-2023-CWDG-NEMW, USDA-FS-2023-CWDG-SGSF).

Check here to see whether your community is eligible to apply.

The maximum amount of funding that a community can receive is $250,000 for creating or updating CWPPs and $10 million for a project described in a community’s CWPP that is less than 10 years old.

Wildfire Defense Grants

Applicants are highly encouraged to coordinate with their state forestry agency in proposal development. Forest Service staff are also available to assist with coordination, can provide liaison support for Tribes, and can assist with application submission if needed.

A virtual information session is scheduled for October 25 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET and you can register [HERE].

Wildfire Defense Grants

The USDA recently selected 100 applicants for funding, including applicants across seven tribes and 22 states. Every applicant selected was in a high or very high wildfire hazard potential area, and 86 percent of applicants met the definition of an “underserved community.”

GOATs help with fire prevention

New teams of wildfire prevention experts are sprouting up across the world, but they aren’t made up of hotshots or forest managers — they’re herds of goats.

Michael Choi is the creator of Fire Grazers Inc., a fire brush management company that deploys free-range goats in fire-prone areas around California to clear dead vegetation and prevent wildfires.

“Our goal is to assist in the management of fire-hazardous zones through fuel modification, thereby addressing an accelerating regional problem that threatens the livelihood and prosperity of many residents of California,” Choi said on his website. “Our grazing goats can clear an unbelievable amount of brush and weeds. A well-sized herd can complete a job in a single day that would take two or three times as long with a landscaping crew.”

Before and after views with GoatsRock fire prevention.
Before and after views with GoatsRock fuels reduction.


Goats’ mountain climbing expertise gives them a leg up on other wildfire managers. Some areas that may be treacherous for humans are easily scalable for goats, including steep hillsides and canyons.

Fire Grazers Inc. has been around since the early 2010s, but Choi’s technique is getting noticed across the world. Chile’s goat brigades have prevented both wildfires and erosion in the country’s forests, Nevada deployed goats in Reno through a state-funded program, and the City of Quesnel in central British Columbia announced in June it had deployed a herd of 132 goats to eat vegetation in and around designated Fuel Management Trails.

Quesnel’s strategy has been a success. While multiple wildfires burned around the area of the city in 2023, none threatened the city’s residents. The Quesnel Cariboo Observer reported that multiple wildfires west of Quesnel in August triggered evacuations in the nearby town of Eliguk Lake in August. Two other evacuations in July were triggered by the Townsend Creek Fire. British Columbia had its worst fire season on record in 2023, with over three million hectares burned.

Quesnel still stands. The city sits in one of the lowest-priority fire danger areas of the province, according to Canada’s Government. The goats are looking to keep it that way.
Some of GOATSROCK’s herd — Michael Choi


Utah wins Bronze Smokey for prevention

Utah burned much more than usual in 2020 and, more than ever before, humans were to blame. The state had its worst year of human-caused wildfires on record that year, when 1,500 wildfires burned more than 100,000 acres of land across the state. Officials say 1,143 of those fires were caused by humans, beating the state’s previous single-year record by more than 250.

Utah wins a Bronze SmokeyUtah launched a statewide campaign called “Fire Sense” to reduce human-caused wildfires, and it was incredibly effective. The state marked a 60 percent reduction in human-caused wildfires in the two years following the start of the program. In 2023 that number has gone down even more, with only 295 of Utah’s 772 wildfires recorded as human-caused as of October 6.

A Bronze Smokey
A Bronze Smokey

The program was recently awarded a Bronze Smokey, which is a national award for statewide service, for its by-the-numbers success.

“This is a great honor for Fire Sense,” said Kayli Guild, the Fire Prevention and Communications Coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands (FFSL), after receiving the Bronze Smokey. “We launched this campaign to raise awareness surrounding the impact our behaviors as humans have on wildfire starts. Over the past two years, we have seen a drastic decrease in human-caused starts as we have seen Utahns implement Fire Sense.”

Fire Sense is basically a PSA package geared toward educating Utah’s residents about how they can help avoid starting wildfires throughout the state. All of the usual bases are covered, including telling people to put out their campfires, not drag chains, and not fire guns on hot and windy days. The execution of the project, however, seems to be what made it so effective.

“This strategy worked because Fire Sense is common sense!” according to FFSL . More details on the Fire Sense program are available from the website.

Smokey Award Levels:

Gold: This is the highest honor given to organizations or individuals for outstanding wildfire prevention service that is national in scope over at least a two-year period. A maximum of three Gold Smokey Bear awards may be given annually.


Silver: This is the highest honor given to organizations or individuals for outstanding wildfire prevention service that is regional (multistate) in scope over at least a two-year period. A maximum of five Silver Smokey Bear awards may be given annually.

Bronze: This is the highest honor given to organizations or individuals for outstanding wildfire prevention service that has impact within a state over at least a two-year period. A maximum of 10 Bronze Smokey Bear awards may be given annually.