May 26, 2019

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Wildfires in California: The New Abnormal- FREE TOWN HALL at Commonwealth Club Today, 12/4/18
December 4, 2018

News Courtesy of Riki Rafner


Media Advisory from

The Commonwealth Club

the nationís premier public affairs forum


Please feel free to use excerpts crediting The Commonwealth of California.





J. Keith Gilles, Chair, California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection; Professor of Forest Economics, UC Berkeley

Thom Porter, Chief of Strategic Planning, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)

Kurtis Alexander, Water, Wildfire and Climate Writer, San Francisco Chronicle

Maggi Kelly, Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management Department, UC Berkeley

Greg Dalton, Founder and Host, Climate OneóModerator




The New Abnormal:  Town Hall on Californiaís Fires and the Future


Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018


11:30 a.m. check- in, 12 noon program


Commonwealth Club, Taube Family Auditorium, 110 The Embarcadero, SF



This panel of Forestry, Environmental and Fire Protection experts will conduct a special FREE Town Hall on California's fires and what can be done in the short and long term to prepare for them.  To help Californians understand some of the causes of the recent fires, what the state is doing around fire management and what it could be doing better, the Club has invited some of the region's leading experts for an essential and honest discussion about the new abnormal and the pressing need to better prepare for the future. The Town Hall will also address how technology is shaping fire prevention and firefighting. Guests are invited to participate and share their experiences, thoughts and recommendations. Some of the state's top fire experts will also be seated in the audience.  

Wildfires have always been part of life for the state of California. However, in the past year the state has seen 7 of its 20 most destructive wildfires ever, including the recent Camp Fire in Butte County, which directly impacted the Bay Area for days, and the Woolsey Fire in Malibu outside of Los Angeles. Combined, both fires cost hundreds of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Coming one year after last year's Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, it is clear that the state has reached a new abnormal and is at a critical juncture in how it plans and prepares for the inevitability of future firesóones that could be more destructive and costly than what we have already faced. But what is causing these fires? What can be done to improve preparation and fighting them, and who is responsible for doing it? 

J. Keith Gilles is the Chair of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection and a Professor of Forest Economics at UC BerkeleyHe has researched forest products trade and markets, regional economic analysis of resource-dependent communities, wildland fire protection planning, forestry decision support systems, and international development.  Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to head the development of general forest policy for the state and represent the stateís interest in federal forestland.  He has his B.S. in Forestry from Michigan State University and a joint Ph.D. in Forestry and Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Thom Porter has served as Chief of Strategic Planning for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) since 2015.  Prior to this, he worked in various capacities in the San Diego Region and was Unit Chief of the San Diego Unit, where he was also the County Fire Authority Fire Chief. In 2008 he worked as the Forestry and Fire Protection Administrator and was assigned to the Southern Operations Center in Riverside, where he coordinated the regional delivery of the Department's Resource Management Programs.  Before this he worked in Forester II in 2002, leading the multi-agency collaborative Forest Area Safety Taskforce (FAST) and Border Area Fire Council (BAFC).  Prior to working in fire prevention, Porter worked as a Forester in the timber industry in Washington, Oregon, and California.  He has an undergraduate degree in Forest Management from the University of California Berkeley and is a Registered Professional Forester.

Kurtis Alexander is a general assignment reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle.  He focuses largely on water, climate, wildfire and other issues pertaining to the American West.  He has written many pieces on the effects of Californiaís droughts, the growing divide between rural and urban areas and state and federal environmental policy.   Prior to this he was a freelance journalist contributing to the Fresno Bee and Bay Area News Group where he addressed government, politics and environmental issues.  Alexander attended The College of William and Mary in Virginia. 

Maggi Kelly is a Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management Department at UC Berkeley. She conducts research on the drivers, patterns and consequences of environmental change across Californiaís spatially complex, socially diverse and dynamic landscapes. She possesses technological expertise in GIScience which includes remote sensing analysis, object-based image analysis, geospatial modeling, lidar analysis, participatory webGIS and field-based monitoring. She holder her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, her masterís degree from UC North Carolina in Chapel Hill and her doctorate from the University of Colorado. 


Greg Dalton is the Founder and Director of Climate One at The Commonwealth Club whose goal it is to aims to bridge the gap between business leadership and sustainability through discussions about strong action and climate change.  Climate One produces a weekly radio show broadcast on public stations in California and around the country. Greg also hosts a monthly TV show on KRCB TV 22 on Comcast and DirecTV.  Past guests include Jane Goodall, music former Vice President Al Gore and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Greg previously was a journalist for 12 years covering news in Beijing, Vancouver, New York and San Francisco for the Associated Press, South China Morning Post, McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and Industry Standard magazine.  He holds a masterís degree in international affairs from Columbia University and a bachelorís in politics from Occidental College. Greg speaks rusty Mandarin and kitchen Cantonese.

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Commonwealth Club of California, 110 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105, United States

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