Prescribed fire training opportunity set for Fall — efforts can save homes

Submitted by Hannah Hepner

Plumas Fire Safe Council

This past spring Plumas Cal-TREX joined forces with the Plumas Underburn Cooperative to prescribed burn roughly 3 acres of private property southeast of Greenville. When the Dixie Fire burned through these 3 acres, the landowner’s home survived. Luck had a role in this success, but so did intention and planning.

The landowner is a member of the Plumas Underburn Cooperative (PUC) and had spent months working with the PUC coordinators to prepare the site and obtain necessary permits. On March 31 and April 1 nearly 20 people assisted with the burn operations, “mop-up” and patrolling.

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In total the spring TREX event burned 166 acres in Plumas County – including assisting Plumas National Forest with burning 90 acres of Spanish Ranch.

Faced with year after year of destructive wildfires, cooperating entities of the Plumas Cal-TREX see prescribed fire as a critical tool to create more resilient landscapes. Fire plays a key ecological role in the Sierra Nevada, but that role has been excluded for well over a century.  The wildfires of today are a result of multiple factors, but a powerful driver of extreme fire behavior is the accumulation of vegetation (or “fuels”). Historically these fuels were reduced by regular intervals of fire, either from lightening ignitions or human management. TREX events are an opportunity for participants to gain hands-on fire experience, as well as a deeper understanding of the ecological importance of prescribed fire.

Organizers of the Plumas Cal-TREX event are working with a Butte County-based Incident Management Team to offer another opportunity to utilize prescribed fire this fall. TREX is short for “prescribed fire TRaining EXchange” which uses a national model to provide peer-to-peer learning and training for fire practitioners to gain certifications and experience. This event brings together fire professionals and non-traditional partners in a joint effort to restore the ecological benefits of “good fire.” An “All Hands, All Lands” approach increases the number of qualified personnel able to work on professional prescribed fire projects.

The upcoming Butte-Plumas Cal-TREX training will be held Oct. 22-24 and Nov. 5-7. Registration is open until Sept. 17.  Further details about the TREX event, including participant information and registration details, can be found at www.bcrcd.org/trex.

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Participants in TREX will become a part of an “on-call” prescribed fire team that can be notified on short notice to utilize a “burn window.” The intent is that with available personnel, and the right conditions, prescribed fire can be utilized at multiple locations in Butte and Plumas counties. Potential burn sites include Feather River College, Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, private lands in Cohasset and Forest Ranch, and Forest Service units on the Feather River Ranger District.

Participants can range from landowners looking to manage their land, college students earning their basic firefighter qualifications, interested citizen looking to volunteer their time to help protect communities and restore fire adapted ecosystems, to seasoned fire professionals seeking experiences to qualify as a burn boss or in specialized incident command positions.

In addition to the Plumas Underburn Cooperative, event cooperators include the Butte Prescribed Burn Association, Resource Conservation District of Butte County, the Plumas and Butte County Fire Safe Councils, Chico State University Ecological Reserves, Feather River College, the Mechoopda tribe, Butte County Air Quality Management District, City of Chico, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Plumas National Forest.  In recent years, Plumas National Forest has undertaken several successful TREX events in Plumas and Butte Counties.  These organizations are supported in event planning and implementation by the Co-Directors of Fire Management at the Watershed Research & Training Center based out of Trinity County, California.