Apr 18, 2017
Science Tuesday: Give Your Input on Prescribed Fire Outreach Needs!
Authors: Lenya Quinn-Davidson
In the prescribed fire world, there are some conflicting truths. On the one hand, prescribed fire is an incredibly place-based practice — if you don’t have a sense of local weather patterns, fuel conditions, laws and regulations, and culture, you probably shouldn’t be burning. Yet, on the other hand, the properties of fire are universal. The sides of the fire triangle — oxygen, heat, and fuel —are just as elemental in an African savanna as they are in a rainforest, a prairie or a pine forest, and so too are many of the tools and techniques that we all use to put fire on the ground.
This conflict between the specificity and universality of prescribed fire can be a challenge for people like me, who work on outreach and education around fire, and are constantly balancing the beauty of existing outreach materials with the need for place-based information. For example, it’s not uncommon to find me hosting a prescribed fire workshop in the far northwestern corner of California and handing out books and fact sheets that were developed in Oklahoma or Florida. (Check out the new fact sheets on prescribed fire equipment and tools and the value of forming a prescribed burn association, or John Weir’s book on conducting prescribed fires—they’re amazing resources!) But it’s also quite common to find practitioners here in California scoffing at the out-of-state logos or saying things like, “yeah, you can do that in Oklahoma, but that would never work here.”
It is this conundrum that inspired Jennifer Fawcett, my Extension counterpart from North Carolina, and me to conduct a needs assessment about prescribed fire outreach materials. She and I are both very active with prescribed fire councils, prescribed burn associations and other prescribed fire-related education, training and outreach activities across the country, so we’re well aware of the need for a more organized and centralized way of making outreach materials available to those who need them. We also know that there are a lot of really wonderful, geographically specific resources that could, with a few subtle tweaks, be made more widely applicable.
The needs assessment, which we developed in collaboration with Holly Campbell and Leslie Boby of Southern Regional Extension Forestry, is intended to help determine what new types of prescribed fire materials and programs are in demand, and also to collect some of the most useful existing materials from the folks who are doing the work on the ground.
Using the information that we collect through this assessment, we plan to 1) compile an online library of existing materials, so we all have a better sense of what’s available to us; 2) repurpose and generalize some geographically specific materials so that they can be easily adapted and used in other regions. (For example, we plan to develop a national prescribed fire guidebook for private landowners. There are some incredible examples of state and regional prescribed fire guidebooks, but there is a need for a more general, locally adaptable version); and 3) develop new materials where we find gaps.
If you work on prescribed fire outreach, education and/or training with private landowners or homeowners, we welcome your input! The needs assessment, available here, is open for input through midnight Eastern Time this Friday, April 21. Last week — the first week that the assessment was open — we received more than 100 responses; I think this speaks to the hunger that we all have to not only gain access to new resources but also to share the great materials that we’ve developed locally. I encourage you to take a few minutes to add your insight, upload your favorite documents and add your email to our needs assessment mailing list so you can receive updates on these efforts. Thank you!
Weir, J. R. (2009). Conducting prescribed fires: a comprehensive manual. Texas A&M University Press.