Despite Fire Danger, Eucalyptus Trees Still Thrive In Bay Area

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — While the non-native eucalyptus tree can be found growing all over in the Bay Area, the plant also raises concerns because it is known to help fuel wildfires.

In San Jose, officials are making efforts to remove the trees.

Planted by the millions by early settlers, eucalyptus trees remain a defining feature of California’s landscape. That despite a well-known and sadly well-documented history of being highly flammable.

The trees helped fuel the devastating Oakland Hills Fire over a quarter of a century ago.

“The eucalyptus tree has a high oil content,” said Calfire Battalion Chief Cliff Allen. ” Eucalyptus is a hardwood. And because of the oils in it, it does burn with a lot of intensity and energy. It gives off a lot of heat.”

And if Californians needed a reminder of the potential threat posed by these non-native trees, look no further than Portugal. There a recent massive wildfire fueled by large eucalyptus groves has killed more than 60 people, leaving a charred, blackened landscape in its wake.

“Eucalyptus tend to slough off some of their bark and leaves,” said Allen. “That leaves a lot of fuel for fires in their groves.”

In the wake of the Oakland Hills Fire, there was an effort to remove or at least thin eucalyptus groves growing in the Bay Area.

But 26 years later, there are still plenty of eucalyptus trees in Santa Cruz, San Jose, the East Bay and beyond.

The efforts to remove them have been either scattershot or ineffectual.

“We have eucalyptus groves throughout California. They’re especially concentrated along the coastline, and it does create issues.”

But despite the danger, there doesn’t appear to be the money, manpower or perhaps the will to remove them.

Though the trees are a non-native species, the eucalyptus trees do have their defenders. Some point out that the trees have been here for decades if not centuries and worry about the affects deforestation could have on local wildlife and the environment.

More from Devin Fehely
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