Another tree, another controversy.
Anyone around for the Oakland-Berkeley Hills fire remembers eucalyptus trees got a lot of blame for fueling the blaze. The problem with eucalyptus? One vegetation manager I spoke to called them "junky," meaning they spread lots of dry debris: leaves, seed pods and lower branches. They grow quickly and in dense stands, and if they catch fire their flaming bark can fly off and spread the flames.
At the turn of the 20th century, developers planted two million of the trees in the East Bay hills. In their native Australia, their oils were blamed for exacerbating a series of fires in 2009, which killed almost 200 people. This animation about eucalyptus trees' high flammability was done for a TV special:
This post by KQED's Quest unit says "The Park Service estimates that eucalyptus was responsible for 70% of the energy released though combustion of vegetation."
A report on KTVU today quoted Sean Walsh with the Wildfire Prevention District Citizen Committee (this comes around 2:36 in the video):
Fifteen years the Oakland Park district has been trying to work on a plan to do major hazardous brush mitigation. Eucalyptus is sort of enemy number one. 15 years we’ve been trying to take the trees out and we’re still stuck not removing them.
The report says Walsh and others say a small band of reactionary critics are holding up the removal of the non-native fire danger, and that the Sierra Club has weighed in in favor of removing the trees and brush.