TREX participants burning on a private ranch near Hayfork, CA in 2013. Just a few weeks ago, wildfires burned right up to this TREX treatment area, and firefighters were able to hold the line.

Topic: Fuels treatment / Prescribed fire Local workforce capacity Type: Meeting / Event

Prescribed Fire Barriers – Widespread Challenges with Regional Flavors?

Authors: Lenya Quinn-Davidson

This coming October, my colleagues and I will be hosting a prescribed fire training exchange here in northwestern California. This will be our third annual event, and we have a solid roster that includes a full spectrum of experienced fire practitioners. We will be burning in areas that have been severely impacted by this season’s wildfires, including my hometown of Hayfork, where the Fork Complex threatened neighborhoods and other important community infrastructure only weeks ago (see Michelle Medley-Daniel’s blog from August 25). The training exchange will bring prescribed fire crews and resources to places that sorely need them.

To me, the connection is so clear for our region: the more fire prone the community, the more we should be using prescribed fire. During a fire season like this one, I only feel more inspired and encouraged to host these trainings and increase the area treated with prescribed fire. But I’ve been amazed at how many people have asked me if we’re going to cancel the training, and I’ve even had a few fire managers say they might not burn at all this fall because of the wildfire activity this summer.

Now don’t get me wrong—I recognize the severe smoke impacts caused by these wildfires, and I know that we need to make every effort to protect communities from further emissions. But I wonder if there is a larger issue at play here, one that may be rooted in regional culture and history. Would managers in the Southeast cancel prescribed burns after a busy wildfire season, or would they feel pressure to do more burning? Are impediments to prescribed fire geographically unique or are they widely shared?

Along these lines, there is a growing body of literature that looks at impediments to prescribed fire in various parts of the country. These studies focus on social, political, economic and operational factors, and collectively explore both manager and public perspectives. These studies help us understand the issues we face in our burning on a regional level, but they should also motivate us to borrow successes and share strategies at a broader scale. Check out the links below for some research highlights.

National
Southeast
Northern California

One thought on “Prescribed Fire Barriers – Widespread Challenges with Regional Flavors?”

  1. Zeke says:

    By creating large areas of ‘black’ adjacent to communities, wildfires create opportunities to conduct prescribed burns in urban interface areas where the risk of ‘escape’ into adjacent forestlands woukd otherwise be too high.
    I applaud you for moving forward with your plans. A little smoke now, or a lot of smoke later?

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