• The Point Reyes Beach as viewed from the Point Reyes Headlands

    Point Reyes

    National Seashore California

Fire Regime

Douglas-fir trees that were ignited near Divide Meadow by a rare lighting strike in March 2009.

Douglas-fir trees that were ignited near Divide Meadow by a rare lighting strike in March 2009.

Wildfires are a vital part of the natural environment of coastal California. Fire has many beneficial impacts on our ecosystems, including recycling nutrients, allowing some species of plants and animals to grow and thrive, and creating and enhancing diversity across the landscape.

Fires were quite common at Point Reyes for thousands of years before 1850. While fires in this area were—and still are—seldom sparked by lightning, the Coast Miwok intentionally ignited fires to manage vegetation. The Coast Miwok set fires in meadows on a regular basis to increase food availability and seed harvests, and to control scrub encroachment into grasslands in order to make hunting easier.

Over the last century, wildfires at Point Reyes have become much less common due to active suppression of natural and human-generated fires. But with growing awareness of the importance of wildfire to maintaining healthy, natural ecosystems, the National Park Service has been revising how it manages fire. The Fire Management Program at Point Reyes National Seashore now works to protect neighboring communities from the risk of wildfires while also using prescribed fire as a tool for natural resource management.

Visit our Fire Ecology and Fire Management sections to learn more about these topics.

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Did You Know?

Humpback whale spout

Marine biologists have identified nearly a third of all known marine mammal species in the waters surrounding Point Reyes. Blue whales and humpback whales feed here during spring and summer months. Gray whales migrate past our shores twice a year on their round trip from Alaska to Baja. More...