Become a California Fire Follower!

In 2020, California experienced the largest fire season in recorded history. Fire is as much a natural part of California as earthquakes, and can be as destructive: buildings leveled, lives lost, places dramatically changed. But fire is also a necessary part of nature, often awakening sleeping seeds and providing a light blanket of ash to nurture fresh growth. Plants dependent on fire are an important part of California's natural diversity we call “pyrodiversity.”

The Fire Followers project seeks to record the response of plants in areas burned in the 2020 historic fire season. With your help, we can compare plants seen before and after fires, increase understanding of pyrodiversity, and provide crucial information on species of concern to aid in recovery and conservation efforts. Plants are often faulted for wildfire and targeted for removal. This project will increase our understanding of the reciprocal relationship between plants and fire. In addition to the scientific value that Fire Followers offers as a community science project, it empowers individuals of all backgrounds, especially those historically excluded from conservation and outdoor spaces, to engage with the community, science and their local environments.

We are excited to announce that the CA Fire Followers Project is ready for you to help add and identify observations! Check out our website for more about the project and other ways to get involved. Everyone who joins and trusts the project before March 14 will be entered in our raffle for a chance to win CNPS and Fire Follower merch!

About our Project
As I am writing this, we have nearly 5,000 plant observations of 859 species and 437 identifiers making over 8,150 identifications! You’re tagged in this post because you are among some of the top observers and/or identifiers, and we hope that you are willing to take part in documenting and observing the incredible pyrodiversity in California. If you live near a burned area that is safely accessible to the public, feel free to venture out on your own or follow our website here to find out about more ways to get involved. Also, feel free to share this project with your networks and community! All of your observations made within our burned area boundaries throughout California will be aggregated in our California Fire Followers Project here on iNaturalist. The 28 largest burned area boundaries, along with one “Single Fires” (composed of 61 locations) are in the California Fire Followers umbrella project.

We created a draft guide of fire-following flowers here--we’ll want your help in editing it!

Can’t wait to see all your contributions!


Posted by boschniakia boschniakia, March 10, 2021 21:22


If anyone happens to be located near Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, I'm helping with a study of annual fire followers there and how they've reacted to the multiple burns - we're particularly interested in documenting where the patches of Whispering Bells are so we can measure their density. So if you're out there, please document! :)

Posted by graysquirrel 7 months ago (Flag)
Posted by littlegrove 7 months ago (Flag)

Ditto here! There is a great tool for examining fires that are not always captured in other resources based on orbital datasets. You can select single days all the way back to 2001 and view the entire planet or just places of interest, and it will integrate the "fire" pixels over a period of time if that is helpful. For example, here is a week from 2020 showing the numerous individual fires crossing the Cascade mountains in Oregon.;l:noaa20-viirs,viirs,modis_a,modis_t,active-usa,active-ca;@-100.0,40.0,4z (use firms2 rather than firms since lots of primary response coordinators utilize the primary server)

Posted by littlegrove 7 months ago (Flag)

Unfortunately, for my local fire, nearly none of the land is public access. Additionally, the management organization is not accepting volunteers during the pandemic. I'd love to observe--I really feel I'd be a great asset--but it seems impossible.

@irvine_ranch_conservancy, @bedgell, @aktirona, @lyndaa, @jalopy, @newelljo, @job12_7-10, @teri_lane2018, @jerrythornton or @davebe If you have access to the Silverado fire burn area, you should go for it!

Posted by arboretum_amy 7 months ago (Flag)

Sorry, but I’m not sure how to “trust” a project. Do I need to make an observation first? I can only see the option to trust the people following me in my account settings. Thanks!

Posted by trickykid1 7 months ago (Flag)

Is there a list somewhere of obligate fire followers - stuff that needs a fire to actually germinate?

Posted by graysquirrel 7 months ago (Flag)

@trickykid1 Hello there, when you join the umbrella project that include all CA 2020 fires here ( there will be a box at the bottom you can click to trust the project before clicking the "Yes, I want to join" button.

Posted by jaesparza11 7 months ago (Flag)

@graysquirrel Thanks for your initial comment. I will pass along the information with our contacts in the area!

In terms of the list, we created this from multiple sources and it includes plants we consider a fire followers but not specifically for fire induced germinating flowers:
We are working on creating a more comprehensive list and will update it here when available.

Posted by jaesparza11 7 months ago (Flag)

@davidjpyoung Thanks for joining the project! Be sure to also join the Umbrella project that contains all other projects including SCU Lightning Complex. Here is the link:

Posted by jaesparza11 7 months ago (Flag)

@arboretum_amy - Irvine Mesa Road might be open from the silverado canyon side.

I'll check it out this weekend.

Posted by jalopy 7 months ago (Flag)

Just letting you know- your advice DID work. I needed to join the WHOLE project, and trust it. Then I went to my closest fire, Bobcat, and unjoined and rejoined that just to see- and yeah- on the individual fire projects- it seems like you can join them individually, but they don't have options for "trusting". Just letting you know in case you can see that there are other people like me who just joined their local fire, and because of that you are not getting the trust enabled.... Thanks!

Posted by trickykid1 7 months ago (Flag)

@jalopy Please let us know if you hear any updates! I would also double check trail conditions in the area since I noticed some trail closures this weekend due to recent rain. Stay safe!

Posted by jaesparza11 7 months ago (Flag)

@trickykid1 I am glad you were able to get it to work! Thanks for sharing, I will keep note of the process in case others have similar issues.

Posted by jaesparza11 7 months ago (Flag)

I noticed about half of the species in the project currently aren't plants. Not sure if that is accidental or on purpose. If on purpose, it would perhaps be good to say something brief to that effect in the project description as it currently says it is a plant project. It certainly is interesting to see what else is in the recent burn areas other than plants. It could be a plant focused project with other taxa as a bonus, though that makes it difficult to see strictly plant stats.

Posted by keirmorse 7 months ago (Flag)

@keirmorse as you note it's interesting to see what else is returning to burned areas besides plants; while the project is primarily about plants, we'll be having a pollinator challenge later in the season so we need to include animals. We also wanted these projects to be useful to the broader community, so having other species helps those goals.
It's for us a very plant-focused challenge, and that's certainly where all the excitement is! If you only want to see plants, you can use the search filter or click the "Stats" button and hover over the Plants part of the Species button.
We also have a data management project that's plants-only but not time-bounded to the start of the 2020 fires so we can do fancy plants stats periodically!

Posted by boschniakia 7 months ago (Flag)

Are projects supposed to include observations from before the burn? I notified my local one is mostly filled with observations from before the fire started.

Posted by arboretum_amy 7 months ago (Flag)

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments