California has experienced an early start to fire season in the past and this year will likely be the same

Photo courtesy Mount Madonna School
Children celebrate the 2014 Summit for the Planet at Mount Madonna School.

By Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi

From barn owls and bearded dragons to California kingsnakes and turkey vultures, the opportunity to get up close and hands-on with wildlife at the annual Summit for the Planet Earth Day festival is always a huge draw. Children and adults alike enjoy the many birds, reptiles and amphibians shared by the Bay Area Herpetological Society and Wildlife Education Rehabilitation Center.

For the 16th annual Summit for the Planet, everyone is welcome to check out the wildlife and family-friendly activities from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Mount Madonna School, 491 Summit Road, Watsonville. This free public event begins with a 5K family hike through the redwoods, and features an eco-carnival, Mt. Madonna Stables pony rides, face painting, live wildlife and reptile area, a “trash fashion” show, model solar car races, activities, music and tasty food.

Hike registration begins at 9 a.m. The hike starts at 10 a.m., with music and the eco-carnival starting at 11 a.m.

With its unique spotlight on environmental education, the Summit for the Planet festival has grown to some 500 people of all ages, from south Santa Clara, San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

“Summit for the Planet is a celebration of Earth Day,” said Head of School Ann Goewert. “And it honors our school’s rich tradition of teaching environmental stewardship and raising environmentally aware children.”

For more event information visit

The 39th Annual Wildflower Run held earlier this month was a runaway success — pun intended. According to AAUW member Elizabeth Mandel, more than 900 runners and walkers participated in the 10K Run, 5K Run, 5K Walk, 5K Stroller, Kids’ 2K Run, and Senior 2K. The weather was perfect (cool and warming during awards, with rain holding off until evening).

“Participants hung around enjoying each other’s company, with many commenting that it was the first public event they had been to in two years,” she said

While final numbers are not yet in, Mandel said with the number of runners and several new corporate sponsors they are confident they raised at least $50,000.

“We could not be more pleased,” she said.

The 40th Annual Wildflower Run will be March 26, 2023.

George Huang

California has experienced an early start to fire season in the past and this year will likely be the same as the state is in the midst of a drought and historically low rainfall and reservoir levels. While wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season is starting earlier and ending later each year, according to a press release from CalFire. Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer and more intense dry seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to severe wildfire.

This prompted CalFire to suspend all burn permits for outdoor residential burning within the State Responsibility Area of Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa counties and the western portions of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. This suspension took effect April 11, and bans all residential outdoor burning of landscape debris such as branches and leaves.

“California wildfires continue to threaten our communities,” said Chief Joe Tyler, CalFire Director. “With the conditions set for an early start of the 2022 fire season, it is imperative that we collectively take preventative steps now to prepare, and we ask all Californians to do their  part in wildfire preparedness.”

Santa Clara Unit Chief George Huang reminds everyone that, “all residents need to be ‘ready’ by creating or maintaining 100 feet of defensible space around their home by removing all dead or dying vegetation.”

Here are some tips to help prepare homes and property:

  • Clear all dead and/or dying vegetation 100 feet from around all structures.
  • Landscape with fire resistant plants and non-flammable ground cover.
  • Find alternative ways to dispose of landscape debris like chipping or hauling it to a biomass energy or green waste facility

For additional information on how to create defensible space, home hardening, evacuation planning and how to be prepared for wildfires, as well as tips to prevent wildfires, visit