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Building climate-resilient communities

Visitors talk to UC Master Gardeners at a Fire Smart Demonstration Garden community event in Marin County. Photo/Bonnie Marks
Visitors talk to UC Master Gardeners at a Fire Smart Demonstration Garden community event in Marin County. Photo/Bonnie Marks

Home garden sizes where practices learned from MG events were applied from 2021-22.
The impact of climate change is visible across California, threatening diverse landscapes and impacting the lives of residents. In recent years, California has witnessed some of the most devastating wildfires in its history. Wildfires have become increasingly frequent and intense due to climate change, leading many Californians to take action to protect their homes and communities.

The UC Master Gardener Program is committed to assisting our partners at CalFire and fire safe councils across the state to build fire-resilient landscapes in communities. Across the state, UC Master Gardeners teach residents about various factors that contribute to wildfire risk and the steps they can take to reduce it.

Using the latest UC science and fire research, UC Master Gardener volunteers provide free resources and educational events to help residents understand the importance of creating defensible space and appropriately spacing plants around their homes. Through education and outreach, UC Master Gardeners in Marin County have helped Californians build fire-resilient landscapes and create defensible space around their homes with their Fire-Smart Landscape project. Volunteers developed a toolkit of resources, in English and Spanish, for Marin County residents. The toolkit includes at-a-glance fire-smart tips to increase the safety of landscapes and homes. UC Master Gardeners collaborated to establish demonstration gardens that showcase ways locals can modify their landscapes to promote fire safety while maintaining ecological health through thoughtful design and upkeep.

“The Fire-Smart Landscaping team and UC Master Gardeners of Marin County work with community stakeholders to broaden the reach and promote the new norm of adapting to fire in the landscape. UC Master Gardeners bring a wealth of talent and wisdom to the table; such a great team to strengthen resolve, face exciting challenges, and thrive.” - Sophia Porter, Fire-Smart Landscaping Science Coordinator, UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County

In El Dorado County, nestled in the central Sierra Nevada, UC Master Gardener volunteers teach residents how to identify potential fire hazards in their landscapes and develop strategies to mitigate them. This may involve removing flammable plants or materials, creating mini-firebreaks or fire-resistant zones, and using appropriate irrigation and mulching techniques to keep landscapes healthy and less susceptible to fire.

"The class on fire resiliency has been a tremendous benefit to our community. More than one hundred people who live in our Fire Safe Council territory have attended the class in the past two years, and I know many of them have used what they learned to make changes in their own houses and landscapes. I have personally attended three times and have learned something new every time!" - Tamara Johnston, Chair, Georgetown Divide Fire Safe Council

The UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County, alongside Fire Safe Sonoma and other community partners, developed the Resilient Landscapes Coalition. The coalition encourages Sonoma County residents to adopt fire-wise landscape design and management in defensible-space zones while considering sustainable landscaping practices. The Resilient Landscapes Coalition was formed to ensure that wildlife habitat and biodiversity continues to be supported by fire-wise recommendations, to promote water and energy conservation, and to assist residents in navigating occasionally confusing fire-agency guidelines.

UC Master Gardener volunteers have helped educate thousands of Californians on how to reduce the risk of wildfire while protecting their homes and communities. The work of UC Master Gardener volunteers is critical in helping Californians adapt to the increasing threat of wildfires. By providing research-based information and education, UC Master Gardener volunteers help residents create beautiful and safe landscapes and build stronger, more resilient communities. UC Master Gardener efforts are making a real difference and will continue to do so as the state faces ongoing challenges from climate change and other environmental threats.