July 7, 2022
Today, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Homeland Security through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are announcing the selection of members to the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.
Established by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and announced in December 2021, the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission will play a key role in recommending ways that federal agencies can better prevent, mitigate, suppress and manage wildland fires. It will also recommend policies and strategies on how to restore the lands affected by wildfire.
Members selected for the Commission from California include Bill Tripp, Director of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy, Karuk Tribe; Scott Stephens, PhD, Professor of Fire Science, University of California, Berkeley; Jessica Morse, Deputy Secretary for Forest and Wildland Resilience, California Natural Resources Agency; and Craig Thomas, Director, The Fire Restoration Group. Details on commission members are available at the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission website.
The public is invited to participate by providing recommendations for wildland fire policy changes. The topics which will be discussed and the timeline for submitting comments are listed here.
The commission will prepare a report with policy recommendations and submit them to Congress within a year of its first in-person meeting in August, 2022.
May 1, 2022
Learn more about the new Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire in this CapRadio discussion with Patrick Wright of the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force; Sara Clark, Environmental Attorney with Shute, Mahaley and Wienberger law firm (the person who pulled all the information together and crafted the final document); and Craig Thomas, Director of the Fire Restoration Group. A year in the making, the Strategic Plan was a deeply collaborative effort between the California Natural Resources Agency, The Forest Service, CAL FIRE, CARB and multiple NGO partners to deliver a clear pathway forward for Expanding Beneficial Fire in California. Its nine key goals and related actions will re-establish beneficial fire in California after 120 years of misunderstanding our naturally fire-associated landscapes. https://www.capradio.org/news/insight/ using the slider the interview begins at 9:38.
March 30, 2022
Today Governor Gavin Newsom’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force released the Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire. The plan will expand the use of prescribed fire and cultural burning to build forest and community resilience statewide, efforts that are critical to forest management and wildfire mitigation. By expanding the use of beneficial fire, the state can utilize smart burning tactics on brush and other fuels to help both prevent the start of fires and mitigate the spread of wildfires. Read the press release, and download the strategy here.
March 29, 2022
Insight: Cap Radio State of California Wildfires. Cap Radio's Vicki Gonzalez is back with Scott Stephens, professor of Wildland Fire Science at UC Berkeley, Craig Thomas with the Fire Restoration Group, and Lenya Quinn-Davidson, fire advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension to discuss the state of California right now, relative to wildfires. The wildfire discussion segment begins at 11:49.
March 20, 2022
Whiplashed: Read Jane Braxton Little's latest excellent contribution from Greenville, the northern California town destroyed by the 2021 Dixie Fire. In December, after the massive, nearly one-million acre fire--driven by drought and abnormally high temperatures--was finally extinguished, the region was hit with an unprecedented snow storm:
"At Lake Tahoe, 75 miles to the south, 18 feet of snow was dumped on luxury second homes, collapsing decks, and taxing municipal snow-removal crews gone soft after years of mild winters. Highway 80, the main route over the mountains, was closed for three days by storms that made December the third snowiest month on record and the snowiest December ever. Those storms catapulted the state’s precipitation to 258% of its average for that point in the year. California water officials were giddy with expectation, predicting that our three-year-old drought would be broken.
"Then, of course, it ended. Precipitation of any kind simply stopped. January clocked in as the driest ever for some parts of the state, as well as most of Nevada, Utah, and western Colorado. Last month was the driest February in 128 years, according to a multi-agency partnership monitoring drought. And here’s the truth of it: if we keep letting greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, we better get used to this sort of seesaw experience. Scientists say that, by century’s end, such abrupt transitions between wet and dry will increase by another 25% in northern California and possibly double that in southern California." Read the rest of this important story, Whiplashed: Those Who Contribute the Least to Climate Change Suffer the Most by Jane Braxton Little.
February 15, 2022
A popular narrative is that the US Forest Service is to blame for the increase in destructive wildfires that we are currently experiencing. According to this narrative, national forest lands are the source of these wildfires. But recent research led by Oregon State University looked at more than 22,000 fires, and found that the majority of fires start on private land and are human caused, and spread from there to national forest lands, not vice versa. The research found that the most destructive fires—those that result in the loss of more than 50 structures—originated from private land more than 75 percent of the time. Link here to read about the study from the Oregon State University newsroom. Download and read the research paper here.
January 18, 2022
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Randy Moore today announced a 10-year plan, “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests.” The strategy outlines the need to significantly increase fuels and forest health treatments to address the escalating crisis of wildfire danger that threatens millions of acres and numerous communities across the United States. Work will be prioritized in areas identified as being at the highest risk, based on community exposure. Additional high risk areas for water and other values are being identified. Some of the highest risk areas based on community exposure include the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada Range in California, the front range in Colorado, and the Southwest. Learn more here.
January 3, 2022
California's Forever Fires by Elizabeth Weil, ProPublica
“'Discontinuity is a moment where the experience and expertise you’ve built up over time cease to work,' he said. 'It is extremely stressful, emotionally, to go through a process of understanding the world as we thought it was, is no longer there.' No kidding. 'There’s real grief and loss. There’s the shock that comes with recognizing that you are unprepared for what has already happened.'"
October 6, 2021
Today Governor Newsom signed into law SB-332, which will help to reduce liability risk associated with prescribed burning. The bill, authored by state Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), and supported by prescribed fire advocates throughout the state, specifies that burn practitioners cannot be held liable for suppression or other costs under the “gross negligence” standard that currently exists, subject to certain conditions. The burn must be for the purpose of wildland fire hazard reduction, ecological maintenance and restoration, cultural burning, silviculture, or agriculture; and a certified burn boss must review and approve a written prescription for the burn. Cultural burning by Native American tribes or cultural fire practitioners, however, will be exempt from the “burn boss” requirements under this legislation, a significant win for Native American cultural burn practitioners who have long advocated for increased use of prescribed fire to maintain California’s fire-adapted landscapes.
September 28, 2021
AB 642, signed into law today, advances a number of improvements that will help to manage fire more effectively in California. The bill establishes the goal to maximize "acreage and opportunities to implement prescribed fire in order to reduce the air pollution associated with high-severity wildfire.” It requires the State Fire Marshal, on or before July 1, 2023, to develop a proposal to establish a prescribed fire training center. This bill also requires the Director of Forestry and Fire Protection to appoint a cultural burning liaison who will serve on the State Board of Fire Services and will advise the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on developing increased cultural burning activity. Among other things, the bill requires remediation in the event of type conversion in chaparral and coastal sage scrub plant communities, that may occur due to fire prevention activities including prescribed burning.
September 13, 2021
A newly funded Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program approved by Governor Newsom will establish a source of funding to pay for damages in the unlikely event that a prescribed fire escapes beyond fire lines. Read more about the program here (The Nature Conservancy).
August 10, 2021
On August 2, 2021, newly appointed Chief of the Forest Service Randy Moore, previously the Regional Forester for Region 5 California and Hawaii, issued a directive to the Forest Service to suppress all fires and to end prescribed burning during this period of drought and extreme fire behavior.
Today, two groups of professionals with decades of experience in fire, research scientists and fire policy professionals, submitted letters of objection to Moore and the Forest Service, asking the agency to rescind and modify the decision.
According to the scientists' letter, "A policy of full suppression contributes to fuel accumulation across fire-prone landscapes and only allows for escaped wildfires in the height of fire season to burn. If we seek to modify the way fire burns across our landscapes, we cannot afford to lose any more management opportunities. Our choices are to manage fuels and change the way fire behaves or continue suffering significant impacts indefinitely." The group of scientists asked that decision making be restored to the individual national forest and district level.
Similarly the group letter from fire professionals attested, "The value of resource objective wildfires has been confirmed countless times through scientific research. An extensive body of research shows that these wildfires generally burn within the natural range of variation and create heterogeneous landscapes that are more resilient to high severity wildfire."
Read August 10, 2021 letter from scientists here.
Read August 10, 2021 letter from wildland fire professionals here.
Read August 2, 2021 policy directive from Chief Moore here.
August 10, 2021
With extreme fires burning, Forest Service stops 'good fires' too. Will science prevail, or will we continue down a path that has resulted in ever-expanding mega-fires? Don't miss the excellent coverage of this topic by Lauren Sommer on NPR.
August 9, 2021
A new report demonstrates that allowing frequent fires to burn at research sites in Yosemite National Park’s Illilouette Creek Basin and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ Sugarloaf Creek Basin "has brought undeniable ecological benefits, including boosting plant and pollinator biodiversity, limiting the severity of wildfires and increasing the amount of water available during periods of drought. All these benefits are also likely to make the forest more resilient to the warmer, drier conditions brought by climate change." Read the story reported by Kara Manke at Berkeley News.
August 5, 2021
In "Renewing and Radicalizing our Relationship with Fire," Lenya Quinn-Davidson examines some of the paradoxical problems relative to fire--and lack of fire--that we face today. She does it with logic and heart--both of which are needed in this struggle.
"We need to let go of the blame, too. Can retired fire managers who put out fires and deferred risk for the last 30 years point fingers at today’s fire folks, who have been left to pick up the pieces? Can the cities and developers point fingers while they sprawl aimlessly into the wilds? Can the environmental organizations call out inaction at the same time they’re filing lawsuits? Can we citizens blame the fire managers, when we and the agencies consistently fail to give them the pay, job security and votes of confidence they need to do the jobs we hired them to do?"
August 4, 2021
Ally Zeke Lunder has started a website, The-Lookout.org. Currently focused on the Dixie Fire, the site will provide mapping and wildfire analysis as well as interviews with some of the brave and talented people working to restore fire-resilient ecosystems in California.
July 27, 2021
Experts suggest the state should burn about one million acres a year to help control its wildfire challenges, but currently it is only burning about 100,000. Read "More 'good fire' could help California control future catastrophes" by Alejandra Borunda, just out in National Geographic.
July 19, 2021
Looking back at the 2020 August Complex Fire, Lenya Quinn-Davidson writes eloquently about "The Fires California Grieves--And Needs" in Zocalo Public Square.
June 20, 2021
The devastating Creek Fire offers valuable lessons that forest managers must embrace. Read this opinion by Craig Thomas, Matt Hurteau, Brent Skaggs, and Adam Hernandez in the Fresno Bee.
June 14, 2021
As the threat of wildfire looms, a debate has emerged in the state about the best way to plant trees.
Read "Scientists are Trying to Make California's Forests More Fire Resilient" in the Bloomberg News.
June 4, 2021
This morning CAL FIRE Pilot Peak Lookout reported a small, white smoke column in the community of Kelsey, in El Dorado County. As you can see from the video, an amazing fuel break was just recently created along Shoofly Road to add protection to the landscape at the top of the ridge from where the fire originated. This is a great example of how the community and public agencies are working together to protect lives and property from wildland fires.
May 19, 2021
To achieve forest health, we need to change our relationship with fire. Read Jane Braxton Little's Commentary on CalMatters.
May 12, 2021
The University of California Cooperative Extension Program has begun implementation of the California Certified Burn Boss program. The first class was held this week in Eureka. Learn more here.
May 4, 2021
The California Fire Science Consortium and USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Ecology Program hosted a webinar on Restorative Burning: Outcomes from the 2019 Caples Fire. Watch the recording here.
April 29, 2021
Presentation by Craig Thomas at meeting of the California Forestry Association, February 2020.
April 28, 2021
Listen to Scott Stephens, Lenya Davidson, and Craig Thomas discuss fire prevention and prescribed burning on Cap Radio's Insight program today. Slide to 23:07 minutes to begin this segment.
April 23, 2021
There are growing concerns about the health impacts of wildfire smoke as California faces larger and more devastating blazes. NBC News’ Steve Patterson goes inside Stanford’s Allergy & Asthma Lab, where researchers are testing firefighters for exposure and their gear for toxins.
NBC’s Jacob Ward reports from California where scientists are preparing for wildfire season by setting controlled fires.
March 9, 2021
Good Fire -- Current Barriers to the Expansion of Cultural Burning and Prescribed Fire in California and Recommended Solutions. Cultural burning and prescribed fire are essential tools for restoring California’s fire adapted ecosystems, and repairing the fraught relationship between California, its Indigenous peoples, and stewardship of the landscape. This important new contribution on behalf of the Karuk Tribe can be downloaded here.
Postfire Restoration Framework for National Forests in California -- U.S. Forest Service Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-270. There is a growing need for a well-supported, science-based approach to postfire management that is rooted in ecological restoration principles designed to enhance or recover ecological integrity. This report presents a framework to guide the development of postfire restoration on national forests in California. Download it here.
January 28, 2021
Project Firehawk: Decolonizing Prescribed Fire -- Fire Learning Network
Christopher Adlam, Regional Fire Specialist at Oregon State University Extension Fire Program and Deniss Martinez, PhD Candidate in Ecology at the University of California, Davis discuss the history of suppression of traditional and Indigenous fire practices during colonization, and the repercussions that continue today. Read it here.
January 8, 2021
The Governor’s Forest Management Taskforce has released a comprehensive action plan to reduce wildfire risk for vulnerable communities, improve the health of forests and wildlands and accelerate action to combat climate change. The Task Force and the state’s efforts going forward will be guided by this Action Plan with an overall goal to increase the pace and scale of forest management and wildfire resilience efforts by 2025 and beyond. Download the Action Plan here.
December 16, 2020
Prescribed Fire May Mean Safer Smoke – Scienceline
Emerging research suggests that smoke from prescribed burns is less harmful than smoke from wildfires. By Casey Crownhart at the Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University. Read it here.
The Second Coming of the Flames – Tahoe Quarterly
Sierra Nevada forests are in the midst of an ecological transformation fueled by record-breaking wildfire and a changing climate—and a 13-year-old Tahoe burn area may hold a glimpse into the state’s future forests. By David Bunker, in Features, Winter 2020-21 The Tahoe Quarterly. Read it here.
November 5, 2020
A Lesson in Learning to Live with Fire, and Each Other — Bloomberg CityLab
A Congress-funded forest restoration effort, the Dinkey Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project (Dinkey CFLRP) in the southern Sierra Nevada brought environmental groups, loggers, cabin owners, church camps, research scientists, and the U.S. Forest Service together to cooperatively plan management actions on 154,000 acres of public lands. The project is located adjacent to and overlapping with 15,000 acres of the Creek Fire (379,729 acres as of this writing), the largest single ignition fire in California’s history. Laura Bliss discusses the history and context of the group’s mission with several key members in this insightful article.
Wildfires Destroy Thousands of Structures Each Year — Headwaters Economics
Focusing exclusively on the size of wildfire overlooks the important differentiation between “good” and “bad” wildfires. Fire is a necessary ecological process and provides crucial ecosystem benefits. Large low-severity wildfires burning where there are no homes can rejuvenate forests and replenish soils, while small high-severity wildfires that escape mitigation and suppression efforts can result in tragic outcomes. Wildfires need to burn on many of our landscapes and allowing more good wildfires reduces the likelihood that bad wildfires will occur. Read the rest of this excellent piece by Kimiko Barrett, PhD.
October 28, 2020
Watch Dr. Stephen Pyne in a one-hour, free Zoom lecture on “The Pyrocene: How Humanity Created a Fire Age.” The talk was part of the Lynn W. Day Lectureship in Forest and Conservation History series, cosponsored by the Forest History Society, Duke University's Department of History and its Nicholas School of the Environment. Dr. Pyne answered questions he was unable to get to during the presentation, in writing. You can find those questions and responses here.
October 27, 2020
Experts to Western States: Time to Finally Fight Fires with More Fire—NPR, All Things Considered
A major obstacle to expanding controlled burns is institutional inertia in large, risk-averse state and federal agencies. Calfire and the U.S. Forest Service largely continue to embrace an antiquated 'fight every fire' ethos. Read the transcript, or listen to the newscast here.
October 22, 2020
Size Isn’t the Best Way to Talk About Fires — Bay Nature
What if we flipped the script on fire? What if we assumed that fire didn’t mostly destroy, but instead it mostly renewed? Replenished the soil? Rejuvenated the forest? What if we described fires by how much good ecological work they did, but also acknowledged where gaps in human mitigation and adaptation have had tragic outcomes? Read more in this great article by former firefighter and Assistant Professor of Fire Science at UC Merced, Crystal Kolden.
October 21, 2020
As wildfires explode in the West, Forest Service can’t afford prevention efforts – LA Times
Throughout California, Oregon and other Western states, the Forest Service has a growing backlog of millions of acres of forest management projects that are ready to go, requiring only funding and manpower to complete. By staff writer Anna M. Phillips. Read it here.
October 1, 2020
California’s inescapable fire debt—The World and Everything in it
September 23, 2020
What the Photos of Wildfires and Smoke Don’t Show You – ProPublica
The West will need “good fire” — controlled, managed fire that balances the ecosystem — to stave off deadly, out-of-control fire. We need to know what that looks like. By Elizabeth Weil and Lisa Larson-Walker. Read it here.
September 17, 2020
Wildfires have burned over 5 million acres in the West. Are they too big for Washington to ignore? – LA Times
With massive wildfires across the West burning more than 5 million acres and displacing tens of thousands of people, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon says this is the moment for Congress to reform the nation’s fire management policies, or brace for more Septembers like this one. By Anna M. Phillips and Jennifer Haberkorn. Read it here.
September 16, 2020
Fighting Fire with Fire --Axios
The catastrophic wildfires in parts of the West are a product of climate change, but also decades of failure to use controlled fire to reduce fuel load. By Brian Walsh. Read it here.
September 15, 2020
KQED Radio Live Forum: How To Keep California's Forests Healthy and Reduce Fires
KQED Forum host Michael Kresney talks with Craig Thomas, director, Fire Restoration Group; Lenya Quinn-Davidson, area fire advisor, UC Cooperative Extension; Danielle Venton, reporter, KQED Science; and Scott Stephens, professor of fire science, the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley. Listen here.
September 13, 2020
150 Million Dead Trees Could Fuel Unprecedented Firestorms in the Sierra Nevada --LA Times
Two years ago scientists warned that a massive tree die-off in the Sierra Nevada could set the stage for forest conflagrations akin to World War II fire bombings. By Bettina Boxall. Read it here.
September 11, 2020
Fire Restoration Group director Craig Thomas talks with CNN’s Natalie Allen about fire policy and the history of fire management in California. Watch it here.
September 11, 2020
Newsom signs bill paving way for inmate fire crews to become professional firefighters – Mercury News
Legislation allows nonviolent offenders to have their records expunged, parole waived. By Jason Green. Read it here.
August 28, 2020
They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen? -- ProPublica
This is a story about frustration, about watching the West burn when you fully understand why it’s burning—and understand why it did not need to be this bad. By Elizabeth Weil. Read it here.
August 23, 2020
California fires: State, feds agree to thin millions of acres of forests – Mercury News
New plan would last 20 years, reshaping California’s landscape. By Paul Rogers. Read it here.
August 20, 2020
California Looks to Battle Mega Wildfires with Fire -- Scientific American
As flames once again rage across the state, officials embrace a counterintuitive firefighting approach. By Jane Braxton Little. Read it here.
August 13, 2020
Long-Term Strategy to Manage Forests and Rangelands – Press Release from Governor Newsom’s office
In a key step to improve stewardship of California’s forests, the Newsom Administration and the U.S. Forest Service today announced a new joint state-federal initiative to reduce wildfire risks, restore watersheds, protect habitat and biological diversity, and help the state meet its climate objectives.
The Agreement for Shared Stewardship of California’s Forest and Rangelands includes a commitment by the federal government to match California’s goal of reducing wildfire risks on 500,000 acres of forest land per year. To protect public safety and ecology, experts agree that at least one million acres of California forest and wildlands must be treated annually across jurisdictions. Read the press release here.
August 13, 2020
July 1, 2020
Fire historian and author Stephen Pyne has recently written an excellent 12-page "Fire Primer for Journalists." While the intended audience may be journalists, the composition provides such a great background on fire, it should be required reading for anyone living interested in the fire ecology of our region. It could easily provide the basis for schools to create a fire curriculum unit, and for other officials and individuals to share essential information about fire. Download the paper here.
May 1, 2020
In an early response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Forest Service in California recently issued a region-wide ban on prescribed fire on National Forest lands, causing widespread concern and prompting our coalition to take action. Read the coalition letter we sent to Region 5 Director Randy Moore on April 27, regarding the decision, and the agency's announcement on May 1 that the prescribed burning program would continue. We are grateful for the Region's response.
Feb. 19, 2020. Read the latest blog, Pyrodiversity Begets Biodiversity.
February 15, 2020
"With this effort, we’re essentially hanging up a sign for California gulls that says, ‘Ready for occupancy,’” said Kristie Nelson, a biologist and expert on the California gulls of Mono Lake.
January 24, 2020
October 24, 2019
August 26, 2019
November 27, 2018
November 30, 2018
Living with Fire on the Inyo National Forest (2020) documentary with fire ecologist and Public Affairs Officer Deb Schweizer, U.S. Forest Service, Inyo National Forest. This is a great presentation, don’t miss it. View the video here.
Watch the TEDx Berkeley Talk, “Wildfires in California: Friend or Foe?” by fire scientist and director of the UC Berkeley Fire Center, Professor Scott Stephens, April 2019.
Not If But When: Wildfire Solutions (2019)
This 39 minute documentary features interviews with Nevada County local community groups as well as forest managers and scientists working collaboratively to restore fire resilient landscapes and use fire to restore ecological health and processes. Watch it on Amazon.com.
Links and Resources
Prescribed Fire Councils
Previous Events and Archives
Meteorology, Predictive Services and Fire Weather Forecasting: MOU Partnership Virtual Meeting
Monday, June 22, 2020, 3:30 PM 4:30 PM
About the Event
How do we restore fire on ecologically significant (and strategic) acres (consistent with NRV), expand burn duration and often complexity, when meteorological predictive capacity is outside the range of reliable certainty? This event was hosted by the Fire MOU partnership .
For a summary of forecasting tools, check out this page from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group https://www.nwcg.gov/publications/pms437/weather/forecasts
-Presentations and background from panel
-Discussion questions and objectives
The March 13 - March 26 2020 Prescribed Fire on Private Lands Workshop March 13th - March 26th has been CANCELLED due to the Covid-19 pandemic, until further notice. All registration fees are being refunded.
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