Wildfire Safety Initiatives

UC Santa Cruz is continuously investing in strategies to protect and preserve both our campus community and the nature we coexist with.  To this end, partnerships have been developed and strategies are always being sought out and implemented to make our space safer and resilient to the changing conditions we are experiencing.  On this page, we detail a few of our ongoing initiatives.

Vegetation Management Plan

In March 2021, UC Santa Cruz signed a partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CalFire) called the CalFire Vegetation Management Plan 10 Year Agreement.  This plan will generate new projects for vegetation management, controlled burns, and trail maintenance into the next decade.  

Marshall Road Fire Break

In 2020, a new fire break was created for the UCSC Main Campus.  A fire break is considered any obstacle to the spread of a fire.  In this case, the fire break is a road completely devoid of vegetation which will hinder a wildfire’s ability to grow past the fire break.  This fire break was recently maintained in anticipation of the 2021 wildfire season.  Below, you will see pictures of the fire break before and after maintenance.

Table demonstrating the difference in appearance of the fire road before and after maintenance.
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Marshall Fire Break Road before 2021 Maintenance Marshall Fire Break Road after 2021 Maintenance

Title 19 Vegetation Management Inspections

Every year, the Office of Emergency Services sends staff to inspect the space around every campus building out to 100ft.  This inspection serves to check the defensible space around each building to ensure that there is no fuels that would allow a wildfire to easily spread to the building.  When OES identifies any hazards during an inspection, they work with Campus grounds on mitigation plans to remove or minimize those hazards.  Through their work, defensible space is enforced to the greatest degree and the safety of the campus community and first responders are prioritized.

Public Safety Messaging

In Fall 2021, the UC Santa Cruz Office of Emergency Services will begin broad messaging to all campus students, faculty, and staff about wildfire prevention and safety.  This messaging will include creating plans for what to do during a wildfire situation and what resources are available to students.

Although wildfires can be started through weather-related effects like lightning, many fires around UC Santa Cruz have historically been ignited through student activities.  As a result, there will be messaging through podcasts, training, town halls, radio, and social media about the risks of illegal bonfires/barbecues. 

Prescribed Burns

UC Santa Cruz has routinely conducted controlled burns in various areas near campus.  These controlled burns are designed to minimize the amount of dried fuels available to exacerbate wildfire growth.  Prescribed burns are done routinely, with notification to the campus community in advance, and only after significant safety precautions are undertaken to ensure community safety.

Campus-Wide Evacuation Planning

The CZU Lightning Complex was the first fire from which UC Santa Cruz evacuated.  As a result, a thorough review is being undertaken by the Office of Emergency Services and several other campus departments to ensure that the campus’ evacuation strategies are community-centered and effective.  This review will include updates to our campus evacuation procedures that will be accessible to all members of our community.