Berkeley’s ‘Rosetta Stone’ for fire science imperiled by Sierra blaze

map of King Fire

The King Fire is burning in El Dorado National Forest, 56 miles east of Sacramento.

Blodgett Research Forest, a key UC Berkeley research station, is under threat from the King Fire in El Dorado County. The 4,270-acre forest, located 10 miles east of Georgetown, is home to a wide variety of research projects, including wildfire-management techniques. Nobody is watching developments there with more interest than Berkeley’s forest experts.

“Blodgett is the Rosetta Stone for the Sierra Nevada with respect to the interaction of forests, management and fires,” says William Stewart, co-director of Berkeley’s Center for Forestry, in “King Fire puts UC research forest to the test,’ a story from the College of Natural Resources.

Also, Scott Stephens, a Berkeley professor of fire science, appeared as a guest Friday on KQED Radio’s Forum, explaining how decades of fire-suppression policies have actually helped create conditions that lead to large, destructive blazes like the King and last year’s catastrophic Rim fire.

“The cause really is forest structure, and the need is to really restore forests so when they do burn — which they need to do, as part of the ecology — instead of it being a disaster, we could have a party,” Stephens said.

Update: As of Tuesday, Sept. 23, the fire was 35 percent contained, according to Calfire. University personnel have been evacuated from the research station and UC Berkeley fire experts in El Dorado County and on the Berkeley campus, based at the College of Natural Resources, were coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service, which manages wildfires in this region, and Calfire on priorities for defending the property.