There have been 299 fires recorded on Catalina Island in the past hundred years, only six of them were “natural.”
Natural fires are most commonly created by lightening strikes. In fact, 293 of the fires recorded on Catalina Island in the past hundred years were human-caused, and have taken their toll on the natural environment.
While it’s true that many plants on Catalina are “fire-followers,” meaning that it takes fire to germinate their seeds, plants on Catalina evolved with very infrequent fires. Fire that occurs outside of the natural pattern takes a toll on the habitat which may take years or decades to recover. In a human-caused fire that occurred in May of 2007, nearly 5,000 acres burned, including chaparral, grasslands, and rare coastal sage scrub and oak woodland. The 2007 burn area represented about one tenth of the Island.
With the added pressure of introduced browsing and grazing animals, the Catalina Island Conservancy has had to take extra measures to protect native plants so that they can recover. After the 2007 fire, the Conservancy constructed fencing around some of the Island’s most rare plant communities to protect them against deer browsing and to help stabilize slopes.
To see images and learn more about the 2007 fire and post-fire conservation efforts on Catalina, visit our Fire FAQs.