Workshops Highlight Prescribed Fire

The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center was elated to host a series of presentations about accessing prescribed fire as a private landowner. These highlighted how we can begin to change our relationship with fire. Today we are laboring under the combined effects of increased fuel loading, fire exclusion, climate change, and a community that exists largely within the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). Prescribed fire is an underutilized tool in the forest management toolbox – with it comes a host of beneficial side effects including effective fuels reduction, carbon sequestration, biodiversity enhancement, and community protection.

On October 25, The Ecology Center hosted Richard Fairbanks, a seasoned fire professional and a member of the incident command team for the 2002 Biscuit Fire, who shared a number of important reasons why prescribed fire should be welcomed back into our toolbox more effectively. He discussed how to ensure that we can return fire process to our area while managing risk and mitigating adverse effects on homes and communities. The workshop included plenty of time for questions and answers. Fire safety is a topic that is forefront in the minds of many, after experiencing the Delta, Hirz, and Carr Fires this summer.

Our full day Private Landowner Prescribed Fire Workshop was held on November 1 at the Mount Shasta Resort. This event was co-hosted by the University of California Cooperative Extension with support from the California Fire Science Consortium. Its intention was to offer tools and information for private landowners interested in using prescribed fire.

Retired US Forest Service Research Geographer Carl Skinner gave the keynote presentation on fire ecology and process in northern California highlighting the beneficial role of prescribed fire in mitigating effects of high severity wildfires. Lenya Quinn-Davidson (UCCE) presented on options available to private landowners who want to return fire to their lands and highlighted the work of the Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association in creating accessible opportunities for community to work together to increase the scale and scope of prescribed fire on private lands and provide hands-on training opportunities for participants to work with fire directly.

Nick Goulette from the Watershed Training and Research Center shared updates on extremely important state legislation recently signed by Gov. Brown to increase CAL FIRE collaboration with community groups. The new laws provide for fire safe councils and non-profits, create a certification program giving private landowners a chance receive national-standard qualifications allowing them to plan and implement prescribed fire, and an insurance pool that will help to provide private fire practitioners with liability insurance.

Will Harling from the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council shared lessons learned from his experience working with community members, the Karuk Tribe, and agencies to increase prescribed burning in the Klamath Watershed. Representatives from CAL FIRE shared information on permitting, legal considerations for prescribed fire and about creating a Vegetation Management Plan. Siskiyou Air Pollution Control District ran participants thru air quality permitting. The Fire Safe Council of Siskiyou presented on burn unit preparation and safety guidelines.

We are excited to continue to offer more presentations on topics such as home-hardening and fire insurance for homeowners as well as further and more specific conversations on fire ecology in our Mount Shasta area ecosystems and the use and application of prescribed fire. We are also looking forward to offering hands on opportunities to participate in prescribed fire implementation and, hopefully, the formation of a local area Prescribed Burn Association to increase the scale and scope of prescribed burning for community safety and ecosystem benefit.