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Image of a fern seedling growing after a fire.
After a wildfire, there is much that you can do to help heal the land. Read on for some great information on how to get started.

Over the Garden Fence: Partnerships Between Humans & Nature

By Michele Nowak-Sharkey, UC Master Gardener, Mariposa County

This is the first part of “The Partnership between Humans and Nature during Fire Recovery.”

MARIPOSA — Wildfire has entered our common vocabulary over the past 15+ years across California and Mariposa County.

Image of a forest starting to regrow after a forest fire.

Image by Siggy Nowak.

From the Telegraph Fire in ’08 to the Washburn, Agua, and Oak Fires, Mariposa County has experienced unpredictable blazes, resulting in ash strewn hills of black and gray. In fire-burned areas, it looks as if it will always be this way.

And yet for landscape recovery after fire, “time heals all wounds. Nature heals. As stewards of the land where we have built our community, we can partner with nature to support healing of the places we love.

Over the next few weeks this series will offer suggestions about working with nature when fire has touched your land and how to help prevent fire spread if it happens again.

For some best practices in returning to and rehabilitating property after a fire, please visit mariposacounty.org/2644/Returning-After-the-Fire.

The following is adapted from the California Native Plant Society Fire Recovery Guide.

Things to consider during the clean-up and rebuilding after fire:
  • Minimize foot traffic, equipment, and disturbances to the landscape. Activity on charred ground can compact the soil lowering water absorption and increasing runoff. Create a traffic pattern for equipment and parking vehicles. Decide on a place for debris and rebuilding materials.
  • There are two kinds of ash. Where structures have burned is mostly ash from human-made materials, containing asbestos, heavy metals, or other hazardous substances. Follow local and federal guidelines when sifting through to find personal belongings and cleaning up. Vegetation ash is not toxic. This ash is from your shrubs, trees, and garden. Vegetation ash can provide cover for scorched earth.
  • Assess the land. Take photos of various areas of your property. Look for burned trees, broken limbs, places where erosion might happen due to vegetation loss.
Check out this short video on fire-smart landscaping. 

While you are mapping your strategy for rebuilding structures, create action items for rehabilitating the landscape section by section. It won’t happen all at once. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Wildfire recovery is a steady process of damage assessment, evaluation of new conditions and a plan of what to do next. Be gentle with yourself and know you have a wonderful partner in nature. If you are willing to listen and learn, nature will respond in kind. And as time heals, the black and gray of the landscape will soon be dotted with greens and browns once more.

Next: Scorched Earth – Soil Rx: Stopping Soil Erosion

Image of leaves growing up in the center of a tree stump.

Image by zhugher.

About UC Master Gardeners of Mariposa County

UC Master Gardeners of Mariposa County are located at 5009 Fairgrounds Road, Mariposa. For more gardening and event information, visit their website or Facebook page (UC Master Gardeners of Mariposa County).

UC Master Gardeners staff a helpline serving Mariposa County, including Greeley Hill, Coulterville, and Lake Don Pedro. Please contact them at 209-966-7078 or via e-mail at mgmariposa@ucdavis.edu.

Listen to them on the radio at KRYZ 98.5 FM on Wednesdays at 2 p.m and Saturdays at 5 p.m.

Check out this great video about replanting after a fire from the Oregon Department of Forestry. 

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