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Permaculture and wildfire resilience

 
pollinator
Posts: 1411
Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
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How permaculture and its toolbox of techniques for making landscapes and communities more resilient to natural disasters like the wildfires we have less than 5mi from our house has been on my mind a lot recently. As we are now forced to leave our place with a level 3 evacuation of our area, I have some time to type some of these thoughts.

As the fires started and spread, the past ten days have been a scramble to do many of the things I meant to do for the past three years since we moved up to our off grid pyrophytic parcel on the edge of Six Rivers National Forest. It is a lot easier to let go of my OCD tendencies when I can smell smoke on the air and see it billowing over the horizon. Level, plumb, square, who cares! Just get that particle board carport wall covered with anything less flammable (i used scraps of metal roofing). All that flammable junk in there? Yard ornaments! Smoke weakening our solar powered water pump to tanks? Burn some dead dinosaurs in a generator and get those tanks full! Watering zone 4 trees with an IBC tank in my truck? That seems like an absurd waste of time and water right now.

While urgent action has its place, I am also thankful for the time I’ve had to do a lot of deliberate permaculture design and implementation since the kick in the pants that was the Slater Fire getting within 25mi of us in 2020. That seems pretty far now, but when it traveled 25mi in one windy and hot day it seemed to be at the doorstep. I think the best way I can look at this SRF Smith River Fire l, whether it burns our place or not, is as a preparation for the next one, which is inevitable. Whatever the current fire does not burn will be protected by its scar. It is also the best possible motivation for action and preparation for the next one.

Maybe the reason I planted many hundreds of trees was so we get a couple badass drought tolerant ones of each species that will be worth breeding for restoration of whats burning now. It was a lot easier to take the structure protection crew’s removal of some of our lovely native vegetation near the house when we have nursery beds full of edible hardwood and deciduous (thus more fire resistant) seedlings and cuttings.

I can still think of a dozen major things I could have, would have, should have done. That big pond I am planning up at the highest keypoint above the house would be nice right now. Goats clearing brush all over would have been good despite the fact I cannot stand their milk or cheese (I really wish I could learn to like it but all I taste is mold). A major prescribed burn and many many biochar burns would be great to have under our belt. So much to do.

Still, what permaculture based projects I have done may (knock on wood) save the house. The structure fire prep crew said our place was the 2nd best on the mountain, behind only the local fire chief’s place, which has embraced a lot more concrete in its design than I would want to live with. They also seemed pleased to hear that the gutterless house has been shedding water into a swale filled with mulch amidst our zone 1 garden, and which weeps down both sides of the ridge below. “Well thats why your pine trees look so healthy compared to most around here”, one fire guy said.  They said with how defensible the place is, they will have a crew and at least one truck on site if the fire gets close. I guess all those yellow jacket stings I got clearing brush were worth it!

Well, this was just kind of a ramble, but if it motivates anyone else to put in their own fire resilient design, it will have been worth the thumb workout.

Thanks for all I have learned from this forum and all those who did the research that informed what I have gotten done so far. Thank you firefighters as well of course! I hope you all stay safe this fire season and that this is as beneficial a burn as possible while damaging as little life and property as could be hoped for.
 
pollinator
Posts: 325
Location: 2300' elev., southern oregon
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Howdy,

I hear ya dude, and I'm up in oregon. Slater Fire was to the south of me and we also watched it run from Happy Camp, Ca to the Oregon Border in less than 24 hrs.

Now I'm outside the evac zones of the Smith Complex and am also looking at new lightning strikes at Cheney Crk. and Grayback Mtn., and also one 4 miles below the Oregon Caves Monument. I live on Ore. Caves Hwy. 46.  The upper north/northeast boundary is BLM and USFS boundary. My driveway ends at my house and the acres above me are roadless, no real forest service road access. My driveway is steep, narrow single lane, 4x4, and fire services have been here to tell me there is nothing they can do to save property and they won't be back to give me another warning.

What have I done in the past is NOT ENOUGH. I bought a pto wood chipper for my trator as burning slash was to siow to get rid of forest debris. I have tried to cut and chip brush along the uphill and downhill sides of some of the old logging skid roads below the house site. I will save and burn in my woodstove anything bigger than 1".  I live in a wood structure (50 years=dry kindling) and all my outbuildings are funky wood. I have been trying to tear some of them down, wondering why am I still saving so much junk, (for recycling?)   I do have a roof mounted rainbird sprinkler that makes a 200-300 foot circle around the house and it did work when the Slater fire was happening. I have a year round stream and a 1000 ft of unburied 2 inch water line, that has been there since I moved here 50 yrs ago.

Right before COVID I had a heart attack and I am just getting some of that energy back but I am single,70, and a lot slower. There are others here, friends of mine, in worse case scenarios, so my heart goes out to you all. I have come to an understanding that I may lose it all,

Take care and be safe, Ben

https://app.watchduty.org/
 
master gardener
Posts: 2990
Location: Upstate NY, Zone 5, 43 inch Avg. Rainfall
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I do not live in an area that is susceptible (for now) to wildfires so I do not have to think about planning for fires.

It is interesting that principles of permaculture can be utilized to help protect your homestead! I minored in natural disaster response in college and quite a lot of solutions when it came to natural disaster is very reactionary unfortunately. The long term planning for disaster is lacking in many communities.



I find this video gives a great visualization of things we can do, I'm going to dig a bit more into possibilities.
 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
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Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
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Thanks Randal, hoping your place makes it too!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1609
Location: Ashhurst New Zealand (Cfb - oceanic temperate)
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Fingers crossed for both you guys, and everyone else in the area. It's scary when fires move fast.

My wife's got deep roots in the Jacksonville area and on the wall in our living room is a painting of the Little Applegate River done by one of her relatives many years ago. I have no idea how much that landscape has changed since, and the changes coming will be even more intense.
 
Posts: 155
Location: Sequim, WA Zone 8b 16” annual rainfall
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You guys are in jeopardy and you’re on permies talking about solutions for next time and warning others!
I really hope all the homesteads survive this fire!
After working the land myself I can’t help but feel for these people. Sounds like you guys put in some work to prepare for this. I got respect and love for everyone worried about losing it all, but showing up here and talking solutions. This is why permies is changing the world! I always look for your stuff Ben. You’re where I wanna be in 3 years. This is a good share, as I also want to live off grid surrounded by forest.
 
randal cranor
pollinator
Posts: 325
Location: 2300' elev., southern oregon
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Howdy,

it rained here, s. Oregon, I measured almost a 1/4 inch this a.m. I haven't heard a news report, but I am okay and was never in an evac zone. We have over 3,000 fire personel equipment etc. here. There were some really smokey days of visibility less that 1/4 mile. I think the air quality was the worst in the "world". I haven't heard of any homes or fatalities.

Hope all is well with everyone.  I don't think about moving like i was a coupla days ago.
peace,rc

 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
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We have been allowed home for the past few days, and have gotten 2/3” of rain in the last day. Not out of the woods yet, but it looks a lot less catastrophic than it could have been with worse weather. Thanks for all the help firefighters!
 
Posts: 15
Location: Wisconsin USA
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randal cranor wrote:
Right before COVID I had a heart attack and I am just getting some of that energy back but I am single,70, and a lot slower. There are others here, friends of mine, in worse case scenarios, so my heart goes out to you all. I have come to an understanding that I may lose it all,

https://app.watchduty.org/



hey RC,

do you have family, or a group around you? do you have any interest in teaching younger folks?
 
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