Winner of Western Museums Association Exhibition Excellence Award!
This exhibition closed April 1, 2007
Do you live in a hotspot? Why
do you value nature? Is
fire good for healthy habitats?
Earth, Wind & WILDFIRE is a comprehensive exhibition that explores the powerful forces that shape the landscape of southern California: fire, nature, and people. This exhibition is a testimonial to the splendor of nature, the power and inevitability of fire, the responsibility humans have for living with nature and fire, and the inspiration of recovery in nature and the community.
"We hope visitors will come away with a sense of awe for both the splendor of nature and the power of fire, and with a sense of responsibility for living in this fire-dependent place," explained Exhibition Co-curator Dr. Anne Fege. Designed to raise awareness of the history and inevitability of fire in southern California's arid and diverse wildlands, Earth, Wind & WILDFIRE employs objects, videos, photographs, and interactive displays.
The purpose of Earth, Wind & WILDFIRE is to explore the powerful forces that shape our regionnature, fire, and peopleand to ask, "How can we co-exist with fire and nature?" Co-curator Anne Fege suggests that visitors will leave the exhibition with these take-home messages:
Fires have become more frequent with growth in human population. When fire is too frequent in coastal sage scrub and chaparral ecosystems, habitats cannot recover and are converted to dramatically different types.
With fire-wise planning and design of communities and structures, we can reduce risk to human life and property and preserve native biological communities.
As humans, we can reduce our vulnerability to large fires by understanding and respecting the power of fire and the value of nature, and by adjusting our developments and our lifestyles to the setting we choose to live in.
Our Place on EarthSan Diego is a "hotspot."
Nature adapts to normal fires. Many plants and animals are adapted to fire, with many different responses: some can escape and may recolonize later; some can regenerate from seeds or resprout; while others may be wiped out.
It is difficult for nature to recover from frequent fires. Our southern California ecosystems face threats to their health, even survival. Fires have become more frequent with growth in human population, creating a situation in which habitats cannot recover and are changed dramatically. When burned too frequently, whether by wildfires or prescribed burns, chaparral and coastal sage scrub will be taken over by highly flammable, weedy, non-native grasslands that burn even more often.
Fires take on a life of their own. When Santa Ana winds are not blowing, these fuel- or topography-driven blazes are quickly suppressed, credited to the world's most experienced wildland firefighters. However, when these fierce winds create 60-mile-per-hour gusts and humidity is almost zero, wildfires burn out of control and quickly outstrip the firefighting resources until the weather changes.
People can learn to adapt to the inevitability of fire. Wildfires cannot be prevented, but we can prepare for them, as we do for earthquakes and floods. Loss of life and property can be minimized by planning low-fire risk communities, building survivable structures, and maintaining defensible space.
Dr. Anne S. Fege, co-curator
of Earth, Wind & WILDFIRE, is currently a Botany Research Associate
at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Dr. Fege retired on May 15,
2004, as the Forest Supervisor of the Cleveland National Forest, where
she was responsible since 1991 for managing 450,000 acres in Orange,
Riverside, and San Diego counties for watershed values, habitat for native
plants and animals, recreation and other uses, wildland fire management,
and open space. She is widely known as a co-founder of the San Diego
Partners for Biodiversity and San Diego Fire Recovery Network, and recently
earned a Masters in Business Administration at San Diego State University.
Exhibition made possible in part by and
Fire photos courtesy The San Diego Union-Tribune. Regrowth and nature photos courtesy Wendy Slijk.
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