Wildfire Risk

Fire is a natural and essential process in the Sierra Nevada. Wildfires of the past burned mostly low to the ground and fairly slowly. They thinned out brush and smaller trees, leaving the larger trees to thrive with less competition for water and sunlight. The resulting forest structure of individual trees, clumps, and openings made it difficult for fires to burn intensely enough to kill the large healthy trees that dominated the landscape.

Today, many wildfires in the Sierra Nevada are burning larger and more severely. Decades of fire suppression and historic timber harvests have created overcrowded and unhealthy forests that fuel more destructive behavior. Fires like the Dixie, Caldor, Creek, and North Complex have devastated communities and caused significant damage to the resources the region provides, including water, wildlife habitat, recreational access, and carbon storage. Impacts from large, damaging wildfires in the Sierra are felt across the state as they degrade air quality, jeopardize the state water system, and offset progress towards California’s air quality and climate goals.

Regional Challenges, State Priorities

Sierra Nevada forests are unhealthy, vulnerable to damaging wildfires and an accelerating climate crisis. Local communities and economies are at risk. And it’s not just the Sierra Nevada, California’s water security, outdoor access, biodiversity, and climate leadership all depend upon healthy, resilient Sierra forests.

Learn more about these challenges and priorities: