Push for Prescribed Fires Continues

CCA Member Column

prescribed fire burning in Santa Barbara County

In this column, CCA Fire Subcommittee Member Anthony Stornetta provides an update on the group’s work on prescribed fire. Stornetta is the Air and Wildland Battalion Chief for Santa Barbara County Fire and President of the San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen’s Association.

Since CCA’s Fire Subcommittee was founded by CCA President Mark Lacey, the group—led by CCA First Vice President Tony Toso—has focused its attention on outreach and education regarding the use of prescribed fire and grazing as wildfire prevention and management tools.

The Subcommittee has developed many priorities and much progress has also been made due to the passionate interest of the subcommittee members. In this article, we concentrate on prescribed fire and give an update on what has been happening on this front. Since the development of this subcommittee, the subject matter experts in each of their fields have been providing workshops, classes and outreach opportunities to producers around the state on how to develop a Prescribed Burn or Range Improvement Association in meeting the goals of landowners.

A few of the goals for landowners have been converting landscapes from brush and invasive plants to grasslands with improved grazing, reducing excessive amounts of brush, shrubs and trees to mitigate risk of fire and improving wildlife habitats.

To accomplish the goals set forth by SB 1260—a 2018 bill intended to achieve fire prevention and protection via prescribed burns—a couple of the committee members were appointed to a curriculum development cadre for certifying private ranchers as Burn Bosses. This curriculum will be ready for rollout in January of 2021.

prescribed fire burning in Santa Barbara County

Chamberlin Ranch Burn in Santa Barbara County

For local landowners to attend the Burn Boss course there will be prerequisites that need to be taught and we are trying to develop a list to determine training needs. While we wait for the Burn Boss certification process to be released, there are many opportunities to start building those relationships with local Prescribed Burn and Range Improvement Associations (to find a community-based burning group in your area visit calcattlemen.org/PBA). While you are at it, I highly encourage you reach out to your local fire districts as well to determine permitting process and opportunities to burn.

Just recently down in Santa Barbara County, I was contacted by Chamberlin Ranch to conduct a burn on their property to mitigate risk of fire—since multi-million dollar homes dot the edge of their ranch—as well as type convert some of the sage and chamise back to natural vegetation to improve grazing. Because the Chamberlins were proactive and made contact early we were able to host a mandatory training class for firefighters. This accomplished a few goals for both parties. The fire department was able to teach fire instructors new curriculum updates for the prerequisites required to take Burn Boss classes, and the ranch was able to accomplish their fire-mitigation goals while avoiding liabilities and costs associated with the burn, as the fire department took on all liability and costs.

This was a win for everyone and proved that there are a lot of options out there that can make burning successful. All fire departments need training opportunities, so the question should be asked to your local fire districts whether they could conduct a burn on your property. In the end, a very successful burn was accomplished, new relationships were built and outreach and education about the burn were provided to interested parties who visited the site.

For further information on becoming a Burn Boss email me at astornetts@gmail.com.

PRESCRIBED BURN ASSOCIATIONS

As California continues to focus on finding solutions to mitigate wildfire and opportunities to reduce fire-related risks, prescribed burn associations (PBAs) are forming across the state.

WHAT ARE PBAS?