Prescribed Fire

Please explore all the pages in the "In this section" menu to your left. Managing fire and prescribed fire are the theme of this section of our website, and each page has additional information and links to science literature, policy documents, etc. relating to prescribed fire and its vital role in the health and ecology of the forests of the Sierra Nevada--and its role in preventing tragic and unneccesary losses of life and property from uncontrollable fire.

"Prescribed" burning is defined as “fire applied in a knowledgeable manner to forest fuels on a specific land area under selected weather conditions to accomplish predetermined, well-defined management objectives” (from A Guide for Prescribed Fire in Southern Forests). Fire managers may choose to closely monitor naturally started fires, ignited by lightning, to meet specific resource objectives. This type of fire management is called wildland fire use, or managed fire, and is also considered prescribed fire even though naturally caused. In the National Parks of California many lightning-caused fires are allowed to burn and die naturally each year, regenerating the forest and reducing future risks.

On public lands, prescribed fires are used to manage vegetation to reduce hazardous fuels (needles, brush, downed woody material, etc.) so that future fires do not become large, uncontrolled events that devastate the forest and threaten air quality for extended periods. At the same time, ecological objectives for maintaining species diversity and evolutionary processes can only be met through the use of fire, either through managed wildland fire use or prescribed fire. In the Sierra Nevada, research has shown that national forest lands will not be resilient to climate change and adverse effects from projected future fire increases unless significant changes are made to increase the use of managed fire.

Learn more:

The Fire MOU Partnership In 2015, twelve organizations comprised of state and federal land and resource management agencies, environmental groups, and regional prescribed fire councils, came together to pledge their commitment to advancing the use of prescribed fire for ecological benefit and improved fire management. They included the U.S. Forest Service, Sierra Forest Legacy, Cal Fire, The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, National Park Service, Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, and the Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire Council. Today the number of partners has grown to 32. Read more about the Fire MOU Partnership here.

Download this presentation, Increasing Pace and Scale of Fuels Reduction and Forest Restoration in the Sierra Nevada, by Malcolm North, April Brough, Jonathan Long, Brandon Collins and Marc Meyer (USFS PSW, USFS Region 5, and UC Berkeley).

Watch the video Catching Fire: Prescribed Burning in Northern California, produced by the Klamath-Salmon Media Collaborative and the Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council. Also check out the other fire-related links here on our website, and be sure to visit the California Fire Science Consortium website as well.

 

Training Exchanges (TREX)

The Forest Service, in some official capacity, seeks to increase the pace and scale of fire restoration to return forest and woodlands to a resilient condition. In order to increase the pace and scale of treatments, we must also develop the capacity to use fire safely and effectively. As training exchanges are becoming more popular in the western United States, it is clear that increasing cooperation and coordination is essential in creating robust fire programs. Training exchanges provide high quality training opportunities that support partnership development among diverse fire practitioners and increased capacity through cooperation.

The Northern California Prescribed Fire Council hosted two prescribed fire-training events in 2014. In 2013, the trainees participated in a total of 17 prescribed burns and treated more than 450 acres in the Region. Click here for a TREX summary. For more information on training exchanges contact Lenya Quinn-Davidson

Also see "Prescribed Fire Councils" here on our website.

 

Current SFL Supported Large Fire Restoration Projects

Eldorado National Forest 
Visit the News and Event page for more information and to subscribe to updates http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/eldorado/home/?cid=STELPRDB5437610

Caples Creek Watershed Fuels Reduction and Meadow Restoration Project -- 8800 acres  
Placerville Ranger District, Eldorado National Forest
For more information and project description, you can download the detailed proposal here. Scoping for the project was announced on March 19, 2015. You can also download our support letter here. Check in with our webpage for the project here; we will update this with news about the project as it progresses.      

Sierra National Forest

June, 2018: The Sierra National Forest is proposing the first ever forest-wide prescribed burning program. The agency is currently preparing the environmental NEPA analysis for burning to restore natural ecosystem processes and the natural resilience to fire that our forests evolved with. Read more about the project here, and read our coalition support letter and comments here.

http://www.fs.usda.gov/newsarchives/sierra/newsarchive
Visit the News and Event page for more information and to subscribe to updates

 

Select References

Fire MOU - Signed November, 2015 See web page here.

2016 group scientists' letter re: The fire challenge: Increasing fire use for natural resource benefits, carbon stability and protection of public health. Jan. 22, 2016. Sent to USDA, US EPA, USDI, and CEQ.

Long, J.W., Tarnay, L.W., and M.P.North. 2017, in press. Aligning Smoke Management with Ecological and Public Health Goals. J. Forestry 115:000-000. Published online January 19, 2017.

North, M.P., A. Brough, J. Long, B. Collins, P. Bowden, D. Yasuda, J. Miller, and N. Sugihara. 2015. Constraints on mechanical treatment in the Sierra Nevada. J. of Forestry 113(1):40-48.(779 KB PDF)

Also see summary of the above paper in Research Brief for Research Managers, California Fire Science Consortium.

North, M., Collins, M., and Stephens, S. 2012. Using fire to increase the scale, benefits, and future maintenance of fuels treatments. J. For. 110(7):392–401 (302 KB PDF).

North, M.P., S.L. Stephens, B.M. Collins, J.K. Agee, G. Aplet, J.F. Franklin, and P.Z. Fule. 2015. Reform forest fire management - Agency incentives undermine policy effectiveness. Science 349(6254):1280-81 (625 KB PDF)

Ryan, K.C., Knapp, E.E., and J. Morgan. 2013. Prescribed fire in North American forests and woodlands: history, current practice, and challenges. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: e15–e24. (1.3 MB PDF)

Schweizer, D. et al. 2017. Using National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate matter to assess regional wildland fire smoke and air quallity management. J. Env. Mgmt. 201 (2017) 345-356.

Schoennagel, T., Balch, J.K., Brenkert-Smith, H., Dennison, P.E., Harvey, B.J., Krawchuk, M.A., Mietkiewicz, N., Morgan, P., Mortiz, M.A., Rasker, R., Turner, M.G., and C. Whitlock. Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes. PNAS. Released for early edition. doi:10.1073/pnas. 16174641114.

Silvas-Bellanca, Karina. 2011. Ecological Burning in the Sierra Nevada: Actions to Achieve Restoration. White Paper produced by Sierra Forest Legacy.

Sneeuwjagt, R.J., Kline, T.S., and S.L.  Stephens. 2013. Opportunities for Improved Fire Use and Management in California: Lessons from Western Australia. Fire Ecology 9(2):14-25. (363 KB PDF)

Webster, K. M., & Halpern, C. B. 2010. Long-term vegetation responses to reintroduction and repeated use of fire in mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada. Ecosphere, 1(5), art9. (2.19 MB PDF)