Fire Complex is an artwork by Uta Kögelsberger initiated after the 2020 SQF fire complex destroyed an estimated 14% of the world’s Giant Sequoia Population and burned 174000 acres of surrounding forest. Fire Complex was conceived to be seen on digital and paper billboards in the public realm. It is a call to actionIt challenges us to make a difference in our ways for the sake of all of our futures.

Follow the project @fire_complex

Help our forests

The US forest service classifies two or more fires that are assigned to the same commander or under unified command as a fire complex. Over the past year this kind of incident where several large fires merge into a gigantic one much like our contemporary megalopolis was more prevalent than in previous years and has come to represent the increasing scale of wildfires. By the end of the year, 9,639 fires had burned 4,397,809 acres.
Wildfires have been aggressively suppressed in recent years, resulting in a unsustainable density of forests, increasing the risk of large uncontrollable fires. In the area of the SQF fire complex this has been aggravated by the debris of bark beetle damage left standing. 
“Wildfires emitted 111.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to preliminary figures provided by the California Air Resources Board, compared with 169.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for transportation in 2018, the most recent year for which greenhouse gas figures are available by sector.”
J.D Morris in the San Francisco Chronicle on 04 December 2020
In an article in the Guardian by Ollie Millman @olliemilman states that “… 40% of all forests across the US are at risk of being ravaged by an army of harmful pests, undermining a crucial resource in addressing the climate crisis, new research has found (…) the 15 most damaging non-native forest pests destroy so many trees that about 6m tons of carbon are expelled each year from the dying plants. This is the equivalent, researchers say, of adding an extra 4.6m cars to the roads every year in terms of the release of planet-warming gases.”

The increasing heat and drought triggered by climate change make the trees more vulnerable to attack. 
Half of the 100 properties in our community were destroyed with nothing left standing but the chimney. Amongst this devastation there is a small patch of green left including 60% of the grove that many think only survived because of the previous selective logging efforts. This Giant Sequoia Grove had recently been acquired by the Save The Redwoods League. Alder Creek is one of the flagship projects of Forever Forest: The Campaign for the Redwoods, a comprehensive campaign launched by Save the Redwoods League in January 2020 to garner support for the organization’s ambitious vision for the next century of redwoods conservation. 
California is said to have the most aggressive policies to address climate change in the USA. With the wildfires having burned a staggering 30 million tons more than the total annual CO2 emissions from energy production in California it has become more clear than ever that wildfire prevention is an essential part of climate policy.
Alongside the devastating impact on our environment is the extraordinary economic cost of such a fire. This includes the cost of fighting the fires, the cost of clearing up after the fires, the loss of homes and insurance damages amongst many others. It is estimated that in 2020 the cost of the California Wildfires amounted to a staggering $150 billion. This compares to a budget of $1 billion that will be invested into fire prevention after Governor Newsom’s proposed federal and state initiative to reduce fire risks following the 2020 fire season.
An article in the LA times from October 2020 states: “Fires this year have destroyed more than 8,200 structures and, as of Friday, had displaced more than 53,000 from their homes.” As always the impact on the less wealthy is worse. An article in Reuters examining the long-term impact of the Camp Fire states: “Housing prices rose in places to which people fled. Poverty and long-term homelessness increased, straining social service nets. When the Camp Fire raged through Paradise … 56,000 (people) fled their homes, … About 20,000 of those who fled… were displaced long term. Home prices rose by 21% in the two months following the fire. The homeless population rose by 16%… In neighboring Glenn County, the median home price soared by 47% in those same two months, and in Tehama County to the north by 58%, Hunt’s research showed.

In 2020 we have seen nearly 100,000 square miles of lost tree cover — according to the satellite-based survey by Global Forest Watch…. (This is 6.4 times the size of the United Kingdom.) ….. This shrinking of forests had many causes, including massive wildfires in Russia, Australia and the United States, as well as droughts and insect infestation. 
In the tropics, meanwhile, the key drivers were uncontrolled fires and the expansion of agriculture. Brazil (…) lost a swath of old-growth forest in 2020 larger than the state of Connecticut. The findings suggest the world is headed in precisely the wrong direction if the goal is to rapidly reduce global carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. All those felled trees in primary tropical forests contributed the equivalent of 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, Global Forest Watch estimates.

The above is paraphrased from an article in the Washington Post (link below):
In the western United States, wildfires now drive the majority of reforestation need — including 80% of the need in national forests. Large, high-severity fires burn so hot and over such a large area that they destroy mature, seed-producing trees and incinerate natural seed banks in the soil. In 2014, for example, the King Fire burned 64,000 acres in the Eldorado National Forest in California. Half of these acres lost all of their trees, and many are now so far away from the surviving forest that they may take generations to regrow on their own, if at all. Similar high-intensity burns are now occurring regularly throughout the west.
“…Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the only way to reduce catastrophic wildfire was to “significantly increase the level of management on our forests” — including thinning out vegetation and intentionally setting fires that mimic the effects of natural burns. 
Federal budgets haven’t always reflected that priority…”
As the warming climate makes extreme fires more likely, some iconic tree species are not growing back like they used to. Ecologists say this could transform vast areas of western forests.
“… the National Park Service estimates that up to 10,000 large giant sequoias may have died from the Castle Fire alone (….) This means that roughly 10% of the world’s remaining large giant sequoia were killed last year.” 
The above is extract from a newsletter sent by the Save the Redwood League to Sequoia Crest Residents.
Reading this article in the FT today puts the wildfires into perspective: “Extreme weather takes climate change models ‘off the scale….(it) has left climate scientists “shocked” and concerned that extreme events are arriving even faster than models predicted….In southern Oregon, a fire over an area 25 times the size of Manhattan has raged for weeks, aided by a record-shattering heatwave. n China, floods left 51 dead after a year’s worth of rain fell in a single day in the central city of Zhengzhou… In Russia, a state of emergency has been declared in Yakutia in the Far East, where authorities are creating artificial rain by seeding clouds with silver iodine in an attempt to put out more than 200 fires. 
According to ” More than 162 million trees in California have died across 10.5 million acres since 2010. California’s climate is changing rapidly….. In coming decades, many of the state’s forests will be too hot and dry for the tree species that currently grow there. As appropriate, American Forests uses species from warmer, lower-lying areas and plants them in higher-altitude sites. This pioneering tactic, called “assisted migration,” helps forests adjust to climate change quicker than they can on their own.”

Here at Sequoia Crest temperatures have been hotter this summer than any of us can remember. The loss of the cooling effect without the tree cover doubtless is a contributes to this rise in temperatures.
Save the Save the Redwoods League has started the regeneration of the section of the Alder Creek Grove that was damaged by he the Castle Fire. The fire affected over 170.000 acres of forest. Those sections of the forest that burned at high severity is not expected to recover without human intervention.

Visit Uta Kögelsberger’s full website at www.