News Flash

Humboldt County Fire Safe Council

Posted on: August 9, 2021

Prescribed Fire Success Stories (and upcoming FSC meeting 8/19)

Upcoming HCFSC Meeting: August 2021

The next HCFSC meeting will be held virtually, August 19, 2021 from 10 am - 12:00 pm. Tune-in details and meeting materials will be posted to the HCFSC Members, Agendas, & Minutes webpage prior to the meeting.

Restoration of Beneficial Fire: Project Reaches Successful Completion!

The County of Humboldt recently completed a two-year grant project funded by the California Fire Safe Council.

This project addressed several priority actions of the Restoration of Beneficial Fire Action Plan of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). On the whole, the Action Plan seeks to support the return of beneficial fire by fostering wildfire resilience through education and promotion of ecosystem restoration and landscape-scale fuels management.

 Read on to learn about some of the project's successes.

A New Chapter in Prescribed Fire

Galvanizing a grassroots organization during a pandemic is no easy feat, but that is exactly what the motivated individuals who formed the Southern Humboldt Chapter of the Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association (SHCPBA) were able to accomplish. The Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association was established in 2017 under the leadership of University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Fire Advisor and Director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, Lenya Quinn-Davidson and UCCE Livestock and Natural Resource Advisor Jeff Stackhouse as part of a larger effort to increase use of prescribed fire in the region. The HCPBA quickly put several successful burns behind it and membership swelled.

Members of the Humboldt County Fire Safe Council (HCFSC) recognized an opportunity to join the successes of the burgeoning PBA with the motivation of private landowners in the southern part of the county by developing an independent, interrelated sister organization. Just as the work of local fire safe councils feeds into that of the separate, more broadly focused HCFSC, a Southern Chapter of the HCPBA was envisioned to focus outreach, planning, and ultimately, burning within So Hum communities while staying connected to the resources and goals of the HCPBA.

Prescribed burn assessment with So Hum landowner 

RT-130 Wildland Fire Training with local VFDs

first meeting of the SHCPBA
Top: Prescribed burn assessment with So Hum landowner. Bottom left to right: RT-130 Wildland Fire Training with local VFDs; first meeting of the SHCPBA

The formation of the SHCPBA has everything to do with the persistent efforts of the Southern Humboldt Prescribed Fire Liaison, Kai Ostrow. Over the last two years, Kai has contributed countless hours toward outreach to volunteer fire departments to engage them in prescribed fire training; educating landowners on the benefits of prescribed fire; planning burns; conducting home risk assessments; and much more. The Liaison model is one that can be replicated and be of great value in almost any WUI community. There is no substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a local coordinator maintaining momentum, and making the connections between people, land, and resources that gets fire back on the ground.

Having a liaison working within a community was critical to understanding how receptive and educated landowners are regarding the concept of prescribed fire so that outreach and resources could be tailored accordingly. It also underscored the need for and necessity of substantial landowner outreach, education, and planning before an actual burn can take place—especially in these early days of reestablishing beneficial fire in the area. The prescribed burn assessments were a particularly useful outreach tool because they provided an opportunity for a trained professional to offer personalized advice, answer questions, and address any misguided notions about prescribed fire.

 Testament to the effectiveness of these assessments, Kai happily recounted, “I've had a few visits where the residents were basically convinced their house was a complete firetrap, and that they could never afford to make it safe, and by the time I left they had a clear plan for how to manage their exposure and felt empowered to tackle it.”

Kai Ostrow, So Hum Prescribed Fire Liaison
Southern Humboldt Prescribed Fire Liaison Kai Ostrow.

Education, outreach, training—it all adds up to empowerment, for individuals as well as for the community. Those who interacted with the Prescribed Fire Liaison came away better educated about their wildfire risk, and better equipped to use fire as a tool to reduce it. With a legion of volunteer firefighters newly trained in prescribed fire and a new community-based and community-led PBA, Southern Humboldt is more empowered than ever to play an active role in reintroducing good fire as a tool to increase their communities’ resilience to wildfire.

Prescribed Fire: Liability & Legislation

Over a billion dollars has been committed to various aspects of wildfire prevention and resilience in the Governor's recently signed budget. The state legislature is working to address barriers to completing some of the work envisioned by the budget, including two bills that will impact prescribed fire liability:

SB 332 (Dodd) – “Civil liability: prescribed burning operations: gross negligence” 
Summary: Provides that no person is liable for any fire suppression or other related costs recoverable for a prescribed burn if specified conditions are met, unless the burn is conducted in a grossly negligent manner.

Currently, private burn bosses can be held personally responsible for damages caused by a prescribed fire, however rare they may be.

AB 642 (Friedman) – “Wildfires”
Summary: This bill makes multiple changes to state law to enhance wildland fire prevention efforts, including among other things, incorporating and facilitating cultural burning practices, and expanding the areas where enhanced fire safety building standards apply, as specified.

This bill covers a wide variety of topics including prescribed fire, focused on tribal relations and sovereignty, CAL FIRE permitting, and much more.

In the News...

 “The New York Times spent two days here in May when we were hosting the inaugural California Burn Boss class, and they just published their video about it. It touches on the challenges we’re facing, but also the great partnerships and policy changes that are happening. I love the focus on people rather than just projects and acres. Pretty cool!”
- Lenya N. Quinn-Davidson, Area Fire Advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension and Director, Northern California Prescribed Fire Council

Meet the People Burning California to Save It, By Emma Cott, Caroline Kim and Elie Khadra • July 29, 2021.

Frequent, low-intensity fires known as prescribed burns are one of the best ways to stop wildfires. So why isn’t California lighting more of them?

Renewingand Radicalizing Our Relationship with Fire: "It's time for radial action—and radical responsibility." In this impactful essay, author Lenya Quinn Davidson makes a case for quality over quantity, advocating for investment in people and capacity to bring change in dire times. Read on...

More from Lenya: The Fires California Grieves—and Needs

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