Small fires learn to burn landowners – forest research and service

Smoke dripping down the forest like a gentle mist. Dried oak leaves sing, crack and turn to ashes. Neighbors, scientists, and agency staff lit the fire calmly and carefully. Ted O’Del’s grandson runs along the hill on Henry Hill to fix the tube.

This is Odele property in Plaster County, and five of the 11 hectares are being burned by the Plaster County Resource District, UC Davis researchers and others.

Last summer, he felt good about knowing that this mild fire, which took place about 1 mile from the River Fire Extinguisher Zone, would bring ecological benefits to the property. But it is clear about its purpose.

“My goal is very simple, reduce the risk of fire,” he said. “I hope this is a cost-effective way to manage the land. I can’t tackle climate change, but I can make my property stronger.

Watch the burning video here.

Finding a good fire on the ground

California’s wildfires are no secret. Finding “good fire” on the ground, such as prescribed fires and traditional fires, is a key tool to solve the problem. But landowners need help learning how to safely handle fires on their property, as well as maintaining the necessary permits for fires.

From time to time, regional and local agencies, as well as neighborhood fire associations, are creating opportunities to help landowners become a big part of their wildfire resilience efforts.

Andrew Latimer, a professor of botany at UC Davis, says:

Ted O’Dell, a student at UC Davis, hosted a fire in February 2022 along with UC Davis, Plaster County Resources District, Cal Fire and other partners. (Tim McKonnville / UC Davis)

Odeel 78, a graduate of UC Davis College of Engineering, grazed sheep and goats, cut down trees, and tried other fire-fighting techniques, but struggled to control property fires.

After hearing about a wildfire in the UC Davis fantasy series, he met a UC Davis fire ecologist. When Saford visited the property, he advised Odele to handle the blaze and ordered the burning of private lands from the Plaster County RCD and the Cal Fire-funded project.

“How do we put a fire on half a million acres of land in California?” Cordy Craig, project coordinator for Plaster County RCD, cited the state’s common stewardship agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. Our goal is to enable half a million landowners to burn 1 hectare. We are trying to provide private owners with the knowledge, skills and confidence to use firefighting and use good fire as a conservation tool.

Resisting community fires

Odel was burned to death on a spring-like day in February. Mineral salads and wild hyenas are emerging from the ground, reminiscent of global warming.

Left, Yoshi Mazumi and UC Davis Rebekah Wyman stand in a teddy bear fire in the Ted Odell Forest. (Tim McKonnville / UC Davis)

Shortly before Odeel ignited the first flame, a neighbor’s family walked up the hill. They are grandparents and a mother holding her baby. Some neighbors were treated to a fire at their own property last week, and some came here to observe and learn, including Craig, retired Cal Fire Chief Chris Paulus, and several firefighters from the Savford Laboratory at UC Davis. Department of Science and Policy.

He told the group that before the European settlers arrived, the locals were burning the land for agricultural production and other purposes.

Retired Cal Fire Chief Chris Paulus provided indications of a safe order of fire. (Tim McKonnville / UC Davis)

Monitoring the prescription

UC Davis monitors the effects of this and many other wildfires throughout the state – from Yosemite to Clamat National Forests and throughout Sierra Nevada – as part of a California-mandated fire control program in collaboration with Cal Fire and California Air Resources. Board.

“Landowners are small but together they form an important foundation,” said John Williams, a UC Davis project scientist who oversees the monitoring program. “Our mission is to see the impact of mandated fires and use the information we collect to help land managers and their owners achieve their ecological renewal and fuel reduction goals.”

UC Davis Project Scientist John Williams is leading a series of ordered fires throughout California. (Tim McKonnville / UC Davis)

Now in its third year, the program covers nearly 600 locations on more than 25 stations in California. Once a site has been identified, scientists and field workers will study plants and measure objects, such as forest structures, fallen wood debris, and vegetation. They record the behavior of the fire during the fire and then return twice – in the weeks following the fire and a year later – to gather information after the fire and learn how the intended burn objectives have been met.

The information they collect will be part of a database that will be used by forest agencies and even landowners such as Odele to have a better idea of ​​how a fire works on property. Such a database will help forests give priority to treatment, rehabilitation, replanting and other efforts.

Smoke drips on cleanliness during the burning of Plaster County. California plans to treat 1 million acres annually with fire and other fuel reduction efforts. Part of the goal is to help landowners learn to burn safely. (Tim McKonnville / UC Davis)

Too many activities, reasons for hope

According to Williams, people sometimes think of ordered fires as silver bullets to control wildfires. But the task ahead is huge, he said.

“To my knowledge, as a country, we have burned more than 120,000 hectares in a single year,” he said. “There are about 30 million acres in one or more fires due to suffocation. So we have to work hard.

Cordy Craig of Plaster County Property Protection District spoke to a neighbor during the fire. (Tim McKonnville / UC Davis)

That is, for many reasons he sees a bright hope:

  • Local, state, and federal agencies, which have long controlled firefighting strategies, are now expanding and promoting prescribed burns and other treatments and putting money behind them. It may not be happening as fast as we would like to see it, but it is happening.
  • Ordered fires – and the smoke that accompanies them – are becoming socially acceptable to residents, many of whom have now seen or experienced the devastating effects of wildfires.
  • Traditional burning and indigenous practices are being included and recognized in regional and national forest plans not only to prevent fires but also to reclaim land. “We now have many languages ​​and guidelines to build on these traditions. [non-Native people]At most, it was ignored and tried to abduct him in the worst possible way, ”said Williams.
  • More landowners are making connections to return fire to their property, as evidenced by the high demand for TREX events and other delivery efforts. Combined burning associations, such as the Humboldt and Nevada counties, are facing widespread appeal. According to Williams, one-sided fires are a binary phenomenon.

“They cannot identify the burning ordered by their political party,” he said. “These associations are bringing neighbors and communities together.”

Yoshi Mazumi sprouts leaves when burned. (Tim McKonnville / UC Davis)

Community members, agency staff and researchers work together to control the fire. (Tim McKonnville / UC Davis)

For Odel, he hopes he will not need much help to treat his land with fire the next time.

“Am I comfortable? Not yet.” But we do this only to gain insight.

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