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Firefighters on a mountain slope with flames burning in the background.

Everything Intertwined

Yardi Systems supports a collaborative research model for wildfire resilience

The air is thick with the smoke of wildfire. Once, this always signaled danger for those who dwell in Santa Barbara County’s chaparral ecosystem. Our understanding of fire grows more nuanced as fire practitioners adapt the prescribed burns once practiced by the Chumash and implement new research tailored to California. Finding ways to allow appropriate wildfire and suppress dangerous wildfire is the mandate of UC Santa Barbara’s Wildfire Resilience Initiative.

The Wildfire Resilience Initiative builds on established partnerships to help our community understand and respond to wildfire. The initiative applies data, research and technology to create mitigation tools — and helps communities learn how to coexist with fire. A transformative gift from Yardi Systems launched the Wildfire Resilience Initiative in 2022.

“Fires in a chaparral system are crucial to recycling nutrients. Wildfires are a part of the environment. You have partners in this initiative who are deeply connected to wildfire, who understand the dynamic process and our options. There’s a social component to wildfire that is hard to overemphasize,” said Division Chief Rob Hazard, fire marshal of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The social component includes education, the factors motivating property owners to add defensible space, and home retrofits. The Wildfire Resilience Initiative will deliver vegetation, fuel, meteorological and fire weather maps for Santa Barbara County. It will also create maps to inform best practices in the Los Padres Forest above Santa Barbara. As it expands, the initiative seeks to explore drone technology; make outputs publicly accessible online; improve measures of hazard, risk and vulnerability; and apply findings globally.

The Wildfire Resilience Initiative is a project led by the UC Santa Barbara Department of Geography with advisory partners from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Santa Barbara County Fire, and Montecito Fire Department, among others. The lead principal investigator is Professor Alan Murray along with Professors Leila Carvahlo, Charles Jones, Dar Roberts, Stuart Sweeney and Max Moritz.

“I cannot understate the significance of Yardi Systems’ vision and interest in initiating this work. Rather than accept the fate of increased wildfire danger and occurrence in Southern California, Yardi invested time, effort and money to seek solutions that can bring about lasting positive change in places that face extreme vulnerability to fire. We are honored to be part of the Wildfire Resilience Initiative,” said Alan Murray, professor in the Department of Geography.

Yardi has a long history of supporting UC Santa Barbara through the New Venture Program, the Technology Management Program, Yardi Computer Science Scholarships, the Bren School, Grad Slam, and engineering scholarships. The Wildfire Resilience Initiative applied Yardi’s drive for innovation to issues that affect the Santa Barbara community and Yardi employees.

“Yardi is deeply concerned about climate change,” said Arnie Brier, senior vice president and general counsel. “Wildfires are a direct issue here in Santa Barbara. Many of us, including my family, have been evacuated a number of times. My parents lost their house in the Painted Cave Fire in 1990. With our long involvement with UC Santa Barbara, the Wildfire Resilience Initiative is the perfect fit.”

Philanthropy is a process of discovery. This initiative channels the expertise, passion, and curiosity of Yardi leaders and pairs them with experts in the field. What follows is mutual learning. Each member of the Wildfire Resilience Initiative advisory board shapes progress together.

“In a community like Santa Barbara, we’re all connected,” said Arnie. “UC Santa Barbara has always been on the cutting edge of environmental issues, and the university has always been closely tied to the technology community. Wildfire resilience collaborations are important because we’re all intertwined.”