June 2020 April 2023

Santa Monica Mountains Woolsey Fire Recovery and Adaptation Program

A multi-sector collaborative effort to improve wildfire outcomes and increase ecosystem resilience in the Santa Monica Mountains of California


Deanne DiPietro, M.A.
Senior Science Coordinator
707- 477-6516

On Nov 8th, 2018, the Woolsey Fire started in the Simi Hills and became the largest and most destructive wildfire in the modern history of the Santa Monica Mountains, California. More than 2,000 structure were destroyed or damaged. Throughout Southern California there have been numerous large wildfires in recent years that have resulted in similar devastating losses of life and property. The encroachment of development into the rugged shrubland landscape has increased human-caused ignitions and the large fires that spread quickly during hot "Santa Ana" wind events, escalating the number of wildfires that are catastrophic for both human and natural communities. 

The Santa Monica Mountains and the Southern California region is a global biodiversity hotspot. The mountain range is home to hundreds of plant and animal species, including a concentration of rare and endemic species. The impacts of human activities and frequent fires result in destruction of habitat due to development, habitat fragmentation and loss of habitat connectivity, and invasion and type conversion of the chaparral ecosystem by non-native species. Protecting the natural communities of the Santa Monica Mountains goes hand-in-hand with protection of its human communities, by reducing ignitions and the spread of wildfire.

With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Conservation Biology Institute is partnering with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and California State Parks to work with the Santa Monica Mountains Fire Safe Alliance, a formal collaboration of land management agencies, county fire departments, city and county governments, conservation organizations, and community and homeowner groups, to improve wildfire outcomes and increase ecosystem resilience. The partnership will work on the problem from all angles, including: 

  • In the human environment through education, demonstrations, incentives, and assistance that help residents understand fire risks and work together as a community to reduce their wildfire susceptibility with home hardening and ecologically-appropriate defensible space techniques; 
  • In the natural environment by reducing ignitions during critical Santa Ana weather conditions to decrease fire frequencies and short fire return intervals to increase native plant communities’ resilience and improve wildlife habitat; 
  • In the wildland-urban interface with sustainable working or restored landscapes that buffer neighborhoods from wildfire.
  • By supplementing local programs already in place with the use of wind, ember, and fire risk modeling to prioritize locations for risk reduction and with a social network analysis to evaluate and enhance the flow of information through the community, and by supporting the Los Angeles County post-fire master planning effort. 

By informing and empowering the community with regionally-appropriate techniques for increasing fire resilience, we can save lives, property, and our cherished natural resources, all at the same time.

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