Upcoming Fire Training

For all you fire bugs in California, there are three upcoming training sessions you may not want to miss. Take note:

2017 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX)

Slated for October 2nd, 2017 to October 15th, 2017 in Orleans, California, this training will provide participants with experience on how to plan and implement controlled burns, protect communities from wildfires, and prepare for managing wildfire for resource benefits. Complete the application here.

Please note: you’ll have to pass the arduous pack test (3 miles, 45 minutes, 45 pounds). S-130, S-190, FEMA IS-100b, and FEMA IS-700a are also required prior to attending the training. However, these can be completed online. And don’t forget your full PPE!

Courtesy of Lenya Q. Davidson

NorCal TREX – 2017

Another similar training (with the same requirements as above) will be held October 17th, 2017 to October 28th, 2017. This one will be held throughout Northern California depending on personnel availability and the weather. The aim of this training will be to work together to share and build experience in prescribed fire practices, fire effects, and other conservation efforts affecting forest and grassland in northwestern California. NOTE: This training will be managed as an incident using the Incident Command System.

If interested, apply here.

Courtesy of Chris Ferner

Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (WTREX)

For all the awesome ladies in fire, there will be a women-centric training in Yosemite National Park from October 9th, 2017 to October 21st, 2017.

The training will be organized as an incident, using the Incident Command System. Participants will serve in qualified and trainee firefighting positions on a burn team and will assist with preparing, scouting, briefing, igniting, holding, mop-up, and patrol on numerous controlled burns in the area. The training team will also complete pre- and post-fire monitoring, train with equipment, practice fireline leadership skills, and learn about local fire ecology and fire management. The work will take place in diverse ecosystems in and around Yosemite National Park. The training will include field trips to areas burned in recent wildfires and to prescribed fire and fuels treatment project sites, as well as presentations from local scientists, land managers, and practitioners, and women who are leaders in various aspects of fire management. In addition, participants will practice preparing for media interviews.

Yes, all the same requirements for the normal TREX training apply to this one, too.

Male or females can apply here (though a higher portion of females will be selected from the pool of applicants).

Sadly, I will not be able to attend this year’s WTREX as I will be in New Zealand. But next year, I’ll be there!

All training sponsored by the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, BLM, CAL FIRE, UC Cooperative Extension, California Fire Science Consortium, USFS, and FLN.

Everyday is a burn day

When in the midst of fire season, it is hard to support the notion that we need more fire.

“Are you crazy?!” you might shout, pitchfork and shotgun at the ready.

With California at the start of what could be its worst drought, how can I be thinking about putting more fire out there?

CalFire, the agency responsible for ensuring we don’t all burn to the ground (along with other local and federal fire agencies), has reported that in the first half of 2014, over 2,000 fires have been reported in Calfironia, burning over 17,000 acres. The five-year average for the same interval (Jan through June) is only 1,255 fires burning just over 10,000 acres. The number of fires and acreage burned hasn’t quite doubled, but it is close. Close enough for all of us to feel the heat.

And we can’t forget 2013’s Rim Fire, now can we? The Rim Fire was one of California’s largest wildland fires, burning over 250,000 acres from August 17 to September 6th.

So, why do we need to put more fire on the ground? Why do fire ecologists advocate for more burn days?

Earlier this year, when snow still capped mountains, I attended a fire symposium where John Bailey, Associate Professor at the Oregon State University, gave a rousing talk about “draining our biomass reserve”. He likened the growing biomass accumulation in our forests and open spaces to a reservoir that will soon spill over its banks and into our homes.

While I cringed a little over the mixed metaphor, what he had to say made a lot of sense. Currently, all treatments conducted by all land agencies (private, state, local, federal, tribal, etc) put together only account for something like 1 to 2 percent of the landscape.

Think about that.

The Rim Fire, one the largest fires on record, only accounted for fraction of forested land in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. That leaves countless acres left to burn or otherwise treat the accumulated biomass. So despite all our best efforts, and happenstance (in the case of wildland fires like the Rim Fire), we are barely making a dent in it.

Prior to recent human settlement, western landscapes burned – all the time. The only thing that put them out was a drenching rain event. So, even though California may seemingly lack water, all that lovely green stuff still grows, still dries out, and still becomes available fuels for the inevitable march of fire.

If we don’t burn it, someone’s escaped camp fire will, or an arsonist, or a lightning strike. Whether we want to suck in all that smoke or not, our landscapes will continue to burn.

So, what to do?

Mr. Bailey made a strong case that our fire suppression efforts and technology will never keep pace with the growing accumulation of biomass. It’s got a 100+ year head-start, and without DOD*-sized budgets, trying to put out all those fires is futile. Instead, Mr. Bailey advocates three things:

  1. Build resistance and resilience spatially in our landscapes (that means more work for loggers),
  2. Relax our expectations for fire suppression, especially during moderate conditions, and
  3. During those moderate conditions, take the opportunity to extend prescribed and wildland fire perimeters to encompass an area’s “fireshed” – the idea is to choose the conditions when large fires burn.

Accept, Acknowledge, Anticipate, Adapt

One of the great things about listening to Mr. Bailey’s talk was his humor. He compared our country’s aggressive fire suppression to a sort of addiction. He stressed that those in the fire suppression industry need to accept the fact that suppression is not the answer to our long-term sustainability, acknowledge what does and doesn’t work, strive to anticipate where our combined efforts will be most effective, and adapt as conditions change.

But it’s not just those in the fire industry that need to adopt this strategy. So do you. Without decisive restoration and the integrated use of prescribed fire, many of our landscapes (homes included) are at risk of being burned.

Everyday is a potential burn day.

We shouldn’t let them go by without doing something to actively manage the growing vegetation around us. If you’re a land manager (small or large), consider adopting fire resistant strategies to reduce your fire risk and help us all manage our forests well into the future.

*Department of Defense