President's perspective - Winter 2017

By Rick Gessner on Sunday, December 31, 2017

Santa Rosa, the site for WCISA’s 2018 annual conference scheduled for this April, experienced a major wildfire that burned a large area of the city and displaced many residents. On the evening of October 8th, high winds and low relative humidity pushed the flames from where the fire started near Calistoga (Napa County) overnight to the oak woodland hills above Santa Rosa. The fire’s intensity and rate of spread were truly remarkable. Many seasoned firefighters said they had never seen anything like it before. The firestorm that ensued became the most destructive wildfire in California history. The community of Santa Rosa lost entire neighborhoods in just minutes as the conflagration swept through many residential areas destroying nearly everything in its path. Many people lost their homes and tragically, some lost their lives when they were unable to evacuate in time. At the time of this writing similar conditions, low humidity and fierce Santa Ana winds, are fueling a similar firestorm in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles. Much of Southern California has gone without appreciable rain since March of 2017. It is threatening to be just as big and destructive due to winds, and bone-dry vegetation. Let’s hope that firefighters get the upper hand quickly.

As arborists, foresters, urban foresters, and tree-care specialists, we are well aware of the potential for wildfires because trees often play a major role in such events. Intense wildfire like what we’ve seen recently, wreak havoc on the environment and can devastate communities. The problem is that we can expect more destructive fires in the future. Such fires provide opportunities for our profession. Arborists will be involved in the cleanup, removal of fire-killed trees and brush, tree restoration, providing follow- up tree care, assessing fire damage to trees, and providing advice regarding fire-resistant landscaping, fuel management, and replanting—all necessary to restore damaged urban forests. Our knowledge of trees and infrastructure conflicts, selection, and proper care can help rebuild a better urban forest that will benefit the communities affected now and long into the future.

As we move into 2018 I’m looking forward to our annual conference. The program is excellent and covers a wide range of topics relevant to arborists and other tree care professionals throughout the Western Chapter region: Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada; our four-state chapter. Each state is uniquely different in geography, climate, geology, flora, pests and tree-related issues. But we all have one thing in common —trees and their care. The opportunity to network and to catch up with friends and colleagues and to meet new people is just one of the attractions of the annual gathering that I find rewarding. I look forward to an exciting 2018 and hope to see you this spring.

Rick Gessner