Northern California Prescribed Fire Council - Spring 2012 Meeting Summary

      Northern California Prescribed Fire Council

      Spring 2012 Meeting Summary

      Blog entry written by Lenya Quinn-Davidson


The Northern California Prescribed Fire Council held its 6th biannual meeting on March 28-29, 2012 in Chico, CA. This meeting was the biggest Council gathering yet, with over 70 people attending the Wednesday field tour and over 100 present at the full-day meeting on Thursday. Meeting attendees enjoyed a break in the storm and basked in the sun at three different field tour sites, chatted over beer at the Sierra Nevada Brewery that evening, and participated in a full day of research and management presentations and workshops in the brewery’s conference room the following day. See below for more details, and check our website at for presentations and more photos. Thanks!

Field Tour – March 28, 2012

This spring’s field tour was organized by Don Hankins, a professor at Chico State University. Don coordinated three different sites for the field tour, including the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (pictured below right), a burn unit in Chico’s Bidwell Park, and the Rio Vista Unit of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge. Prescribed fire is used in all three sites, but each site has unique burn objectives and models of implementation.

At the Reserve, Don explained how he uses fire as a management tool and as a learning opportunity. He plans and conducts burns with his students, approaching fire from a Traditional Ecological Knowledge perspective. For more information, contact Don at

At Bidwell Park, manager Dan Efseaff explained how they use Rx fire to address invasive plant problems, even though the park is within city limits. They’ve had great success eradicating yellow starthistle, and they have used their burn program as an opportunity for public education and outreach. For more information, contact Dan at

At the Rio Vista Unit (pictured below), we were hosted by Dale Shippelhoute and Kipp Morrill, both Fire Management Officers with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They use fire on the refuge for a variety of reasons, including invasive plant control and wildlife habitat restoration. One of the burn units that we visited had just been burned this spring. For more information, contact Dale at or Kipp at

Full-day Meeting – March 29, 2012

The full-day meeting was held in the conference room of the Sierra Nevada Brewery, and included a wide range of presentations and workshops. Morgan Varner, the Council Chair, started the meeting off with a round of introductions, demonstrating the diversity of managers, researchers, students, NGOs, and others present in the room. See below for more information on the presentations and workshops.

Don Hankins – Prescribed fire in the Chico Area 

Don, who organized and hosted the field tour the previous day, gave us a comprehensive overview of prescribed fire in the Chico area. A range of agencies and organizations use Rx fire in the region, and Don’s presentation provided great local context for the meeting. For more information, contact Don at

Eric Knapp – Using fire to restore historic forest structure – opportunities and challenges

Eric, a researcher with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, talked about forest restoration in the context of historic forest structure, drawing on research he’s been leading in the Stanislaus Tuolumne Experimental Forest. For more information, contact Eric at (PDF the presentation)

Morgan Varner – Shifting flammability in northwestern California woodlands and forests

Morgan’s presentation focused on shifts in species composition and flammability in a range of northwestern California ecosystems. These shifts, which can result from lack of disturbances (like fire) and from forest diseases (like sudden oak death), can complicate efforts to reintroduce fire and restore ecosystems. For more information, contact Morgan at (PDF of the presentation)

Becky Estes – Effects of thinning on fuel moisture and fire

Becky, a Province Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, shared results of a study that tracked fuel moisture in thinned and unthinned stands. Results show that fuel moisture differed between the two sites early in the season, but evened out later in the summer, demonstrating that although thinning may result in decreased fuel moistures in the spring, it won’t change fire behavior during fire season. For more information, contact Becky at

Nick Goulette – Report on the Trinity Integrated Fire Management Partnership

Nick Goulette, Executive Director of the Watershed Research and Training Center, provided an overview of the Trinity Integrated Fire Management Partnership, a collaborative Rx fire project that’s getting started in the Hayfork Valley this spring. For more information, contact Nick at

Rick Sneeuwjagt – Development and application of Rx burning thresholds for the protection of community and biodiversity values in SW Australian forests

Rick, who was visiting from Australia, gave an inspiring presentation about the Rx fire program that he leads in the SW part of his country. The audience was enthralled with the amount of Rx fire they use there, and they were impressed by the sophisticated research and coordination that Rick and his colleagues incorporate into their program. All agreed that California has a lot to learn from that part of the world! For more information, contact Rick at

Daniel Berlant – Social media and fire

Daniel is a Public Information Officer and CAL FIRE’s primary spokesperson (photo on left). He gave a presentation on social media, explaining the increasingly important role it plays in the communications and outreach programs of government agencies, NGOs, and individuals. Daniel manages the Facebook and Twitter sites for CAL FIRE, and had great insights on effective messaging and communication. For more information, contact Daniel at (PDF of the presentation)

Afternoon workshops on communications and outreach

Community education for fuels management

Tia Rancourt, Public Education/Information Officer

North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District,

Social media                        

Daniel Berlant, Public Information Officer


Best practices for communicating your message to the public                          

Susie Kocher and Kim Ingram, UC Cooperative Extension and

Success stories from the Butte County Fire Safe Council

Valerie Glass, Assistant Director

Butte County Fire Safe Council,

Public outreach and education for Rx fire in Australia

Rick Sneeuwjagt, Principal Fire Projects Officer

Dept of Environment and Conservation,