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Post-Fire Soil Erosion Prevention Tips
Professor Offers Advice for Coming Rain in Calif.

Post-Fire Soil Erosion Prevention Tips

Douglas Kent is an adjunct professor at the John Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

After destructive wildfires raged in California, one might think that a little bit of rain would do some good for the state. However, according to a Los Angeles Times article written by Douglas Kent, author of Firescaping: Creating Fire-Resistant Landscapes, Gardens, and Properties in California's Diverse Environments, and Jeanette Marantos, a writer for the newspaper's Saturday Garden section, the effect of runoff and erosion from rain increases dramatically after fires "because recently scorched soils become hydrophobic, meaning they repel water."

Kent and Marantos point out that soils contain natural waxes, which cool after fires, creating a waterproof layer over the ground. This seal prevents rainwater from soaking into the ground causing flooding and mudslides. This is commonly referred to as the one-two punch of wildfires.

In preparation for winter rain, the authors of the article supplied six pieces of advice on how to protect post-fire California landscapes from detrimental erosion.
• In order to break down the repellent layer of wax on the ground, dampening a landscape's soil with water bit by bit can encourage absorption, limiting erosion.
• If light water applications are not working, a more physical process can help as well. Rakes and hoes can be dragged across the soil to disrupt the wax barrier.
• To prevent rainwater from pouring out of drains and causing erosion, drainage systems should be cleared out completely.
• To prevent water from running off of hardscape areas into the landscape, sandbags or other diversion techniques, such as bales and ditches, can be employed to direct water runoff into drainage systems.
• Walking and working on a landscape can compact soil and lower its absorption rate. Therefore, people should stick to garden paths and sidewalks rather than walk across soil after a fire.
• While it is sad to see the charred remnants of a landscape, burnt plant matter can act as mulch that protects against erosion. Clearing scorched yards and gardens should wait until a full landscape restoration is possible.

To read the article in full, visit To learn more about Douglas Kent and another of his books on landscaping, visit

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July 19, 2019, 2:40 pm PDT

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