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Friday, July 23, 2021

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Research Horizons: Understanding Urban Wildfire

SDSU engineering professor Alicia Kinoshita studies how fire alters landscapes and impacts urban environments.
By Kellie Woodhouse and Scott Hargrove
 

Californians are all too familiar with the immediate danger and damage caused by wildfires. Images of charred landscapes and firefighters battling flames and smoke are commonplace on newscasts during dry, windy seasons. 

Yet wildfires, and the way we manage them, affect the environment and urban communities long after the last embers have abated.

San Diego State University engineering professor Alicia Kinoshita studies the impacts of wildfire in urban settings. She considers how fire alters the landscape, contributes to erosion and flooding, and affects water quality. She also investigates how wildfire management affects urban environments. 

Wildfires in the western United States are becoming larger and more severe. As cities and populations grow in fire-prone areas and introduce new fire management challenges, developing a deeper understanding of wildfires and their impact is critical. 

“How do wildfires impact our water quality and quantity? What are the risks and benefits that fires pose to our society and ecosystem?” Kinoshita asked. “These questions are central to my research and they’re becoming more crucial in light of climate change and population growth.”

Meanwhile, Kinoshita is part of an interdisciplinary research effort to advance wildfire, water and flora research at Alvarado Creek near SDSU’s campus.

A long-time outdoor enthusiast, Kinoshita received her doctoral, master’s and undergraduate degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work is funded by a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, the San Diego River Conservancy and the California State University’s Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST).