Tree mortality is changing California’s landscape and affecting the amount and type of fuel available for wildland fires. Since the extraordinary drought of 2012 through 2015, millions of trees have died in California, particularly in the Sierra Nevada. Fire risk depends on multiple factors, including weather and ignition sources, which are not affected by tree mortality. However, in areas that have experienced mass tree mortality, the amount and distribution of dead wood that can act as fuel has changed, altering the risk posed by fires.
This publication discusses examples of mass tree mortality and assesses the impact on fuels—so that landowners and managers can understand fire risk on their own property and develop strategies to reduce it.