Speaker Profile


Max Moritz
United States
University of California Cooperative Extension
Preparing for wildfire: how an AgPass program can mitigate wildfire's impacts to agriculture

The last several years have witnessed some of the largest and most severe wildfires in California history, with growing numbers of homes and lives lost. Although there is growing awareness of fire's effects on specific agricultural commodities, this focus is not the norm. When disasters threaten communities, agriculture is typically under-serviced because orchards, livestock, and crops are not high priority items for firefighters. Planning for the inevitable threat that wildfire poses to agriculture has led to one innovative approach for agricultural practitioners to protect their property and livelihoods: the locally-based "Ag Pass" program. An Ag Pass identifies farm and ranch employees to firefighting personnel, public safety officers, and other emergency personnel. Possession of an Ag Pass during wildfire or a similar disaster allows ag employees access to areas that may otherwise be restricted to the public, in order to 1) protect or care for agricultural assets (such as irrigating crops or feeding, watering, and transporting livestock) or 2) provide auxiliary support to emergency personnel (such as identifying access roads and water points). This presentation is a summary of the considerations when developing an Ag Pass program and includes a case study from Ventura County, California, which is intended to assist other communities in their efforts.

Max got his PhD in the field of biogeography in 1999. He has been a statewide wildfire specialist with UC Cooperative Extension since 2004 and is also now an adjunct professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara. Much of his research is focused on understanding the dynamics and effects of fire regimes at relatively broad scales, a field of study that has come to be known as pyrogeography. He has used a number of different spatial approaches to quantitative analyses of landscape fire patterns, including mapped drivers of fire hazard, projections of climate change effects on fire activity, and home loss studies. Through his extension activities, Max aims to translate and apply scientific information for sustainable planning and management decisions on fire-prone landscapes.