UC Berkeley to close sections of Jordan Fire Trail for wildfire mitigation

a photo of Berkeley Hills trails
David McAllister /Senior Staff
As a precaution to wildfire mitigation, UC Berkeley will be closing sections of Jordan Fire Trail meanwhile the Jordan Fire Trail Improvement Project is underway, which will reduce the hazardous potential of wildfire spreading.

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UC Berkeley will begin closing off sections of the Jordan Fire Trail on Sept. 20 as part of the Jordan Fire Trail Improvement Project, which aims to reduce wildfire fuel in the area.

During the project, sections of the trail will be closed to the public six days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., excluding Sundays, holidays and other special circumstances, according to Hill Campus Fire Mitigation facilities manager Devin Woolridge.

The project’s goal is to provide clear paths for emergency access in the case of a wildfire or landslide, according to Woolridge.

“Fire mitigation projects are crucial in this area as well as in this time of year due to our current conditions, which includes dead and dying fuel on the ground and fuels standing, drought, insect infestation, and deferred maintenance,” Woolridge said in an email. “This combines to justify the classification of this area as Tier 3, which translates to the most hazardous wildfire level.”

Berkeley’s climate makes it highly susceptible to wildfires during dry seasons, according to campus adjunct professor in the department of environmental science, policy and management Brandon Collins. A combination of weather patterns and a high volume of vegetation create high-risk conditions for wildfires.

Collins noted that while wildfires are often managed quickly by local fire departments, certain chance factors like wind activity or difficult-to-reach locations can make the situation more hazardous.

“One of our great tools in the wildland area is using prescribed fire, and we kind of have limited options in this area,” Collins said. “One thing is the risk of doing fires near people’s homes, the potential for it to escape, and the other thing is the smoke.”

He noted the presence of eucalyptus as an introduced species provides more potential fuel for wildfires than most native vegetation. Previous projects, he said, have taken steps to clear eucalyptus trees from the Claremont Canyon.

The Jordan Fire Trail Improvement Project intends to build upon this work, according to Woolridge.

Woolridge said the project will be conducted in three phases. The first two phases will address from Grizzly Peak to signpost 32 along the trail and signpost 32 to Panoramic Hill, respectively, over a period of 30 to 40 days each. The last phase will address signpost 35 to signpost 7 and will span 50 to 60 days.

Campus plans to complete the project by March 4, Woolridge added. During the trail closures, traffic will be redirected to currently open areas of the trail.

“The University has been working for more than a decade to significantly reduce fire risks in this area,” Berkeley Forests co-director Bill Stewart said in an email. “There is always a short term tension between maintaining short term recreational access to open space and doing treatments that fundamentally reduce the levels of flammable fuels to have a beneficial impact over the next decade.”

Contact Emma Taila at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @emmataila