Southern Sierra Nevada Prescribed Fire and Smoke Symposium - Meeting Summary

Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire and Smoke Symposium

March 26th – 27th 2012  •  Clovis, CA

Event Summary

Field Tour - March 26, 2012
High Sierra Ranger District, Sierra National Forest

The half-day field trip scheduled at the Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire and Smoke Symposium last week was snowed out. So participants stayed snug in the High Sierra Ranger District conference room and had a great four-hour conversation. According to the workshop evaluations, it was a good trade: although they missed having a field experience, participants reported wanting more opportunities to share in an open dialog of this kind.

Meeting at the High Sierra Ranger District – Despite being forced inside by weather,
many reported that the four hours of mostly unstructured conversation were productive and useful

Carolyn Ballard, High Sierra Ranger District Fire Management Officer and fire and fuels management specialist on the Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project (CFLRP) led the impromptu dialog. The session opened with Carolyn giving the history of the landscape through a series of photos. Carolyn shared photos of an area on the Sierra National Forest treated with three entries of prescribed fire that is also home to the Pacific fisher. A casual group discussion followed her presentation, covering numerous topics related to prescribed burning and air quality issues. Below are some of the topics of discussion.

General discussion

  • Are we burning this landscape at the appropriate intensities?
  • What are the acceptable ranges of mortality?
  • Are small (3 day) burn windows for prescribed fire forcing fire practitioners to homogenize burns?
  • Penalties and fines for ozone exceedances. San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District was fined $29 million dollars for a recent air exceedance and now residents, business, and all registered vehicles are paying ~$12/registered vehicle. How does smoke from wildland fires contribute to ozone levels?
  • Summer burn windows are available, but there is usually a draw down on suppression crews due to the wildfire season. What should the staffing levels be in the summer months to allow use of these burn windows?
  • In the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District there is low smoke dispersion. The standard is 1-mile visibility for 24 hours. There are many nuisance calls that are made when visibility is in the acceptable range. 80% of the burn days are on marginal days, which are permissive burn days.
  • Both San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District and Great Basin Air Pollution Control District charge a fee for burning – Great Basin is an annual flat fee in accordance with Rule 308. More details at The San Joaquin Valley APCD charges $5.84/acre (blackened) and $3.50/pile/acre.

Limitations identified

  • Coordination across agencies needs to take place.  Example: A pool of shared funds that would allow agencies to work together on larger landscape burns and also use resources when needed.
  • Staffing and Budget constraints
  • Need for more education/outreach: both within public agencies and for the general public
  • Not enough type 1 fire for keeping up to date with the qualification. Type 1 burns are more complex. For example, a helitorch burn would be considered a type 1 complexity burn.

Needs identified

  • Response to climate change in the larger trees. How does our fire management now affect climate change in the future?
  • How do we incorporate adaptive management and monitoring to help with the climate change uncertainty?
  • Need incentives for allowing fire practitioners to allow fire to burn to man made or natural barriers instead of spending resources to put in a fire line to contain a fire.
  • Training and coordination for increased fire qualification and experience – Prescribed Fire Training School

Things that are working

  • Science to managers


March 26th Keynote Speaker – Evening Social at Di Cicco’s
Rick Sneeuwjagt – Southwest Australia
[Download PDF of presentation]

Rick Sneeuwjagt retired from the position of Principal Fire Projects Officer with the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) in southwestern Australia in December 2011, after moving on in May 2010 from his previous post as the State Manager for Fire Management Services for the DEC, a position he has held since 1994.  The DEC is responsible for the fire and land management of about 115 million hectares of conservation lands throughout Western Australia.

In his keynote address, Rick presented on the extensive prescribed burning program in southwestern Australia. The DEC uses large scale prescribed burns (generally ranging from 1000 to 6000 acres in size) to reduce wildfire severity and threats to communities at the landscape scale, as well as to maintain biodiversity for a wide range of species. Rick’s team coordinates closely with researchers within the DEC to monitor the effectiveness of their treatments, and runs an outreach program designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of their prescribed fire treatments to rural and urban communities and politicians. For more information, contact Rick Sneeuwjagt at

March 27th – Clovis Memorial Veteran’s Hall
Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire and Smoke Symposium

About 80 people were in attendance at Tuesday’s symposium, representing numerous disciplines from the Forest Service, the National Park Service, NGOs, universities, the EPA, the California Air Resources Board, and the San Joaquin Valley, Great Basin, Mariposa, Tuolumne, and Monterey Air Pollution Control Districts. The symposium featured a number of presentations describing the ecological need for increased prescribed fire as well as the regulatory framework that manager’s face in implementing prescribed burns. These presentations were followed in the afternoon with breakout discussion sessions to identify the barriers, needs, and opportunities to collaborate around prescribed fire and smoke issues in the southern Sierra Nevada region, as well as the role that a Prescribed Fire Council could play to help take advantage of those opportunities. 

Breakout groups discuss barriers, needs, and opportunities for collaboration around
prescribed fire and smoke issues in the southern Sierra Nevada region.


Featured Presentations

Malcolm North, Pacific Southwest Research Station and UC-Davis

Using fire to increase the scale, benefits and future maintenance of fuels treatments

Malcolm North is a research ecologist with Pacific Southwest Research Station and an associate professor at UC Davis. Malcolm gave an overview of new research he is working on with Brandon Collins (USFS PSW and UC Davis) and Scott Stephens (UC Berkeley). His presentation framed the roadblocks that the large-scale use of prescribed fire and managed wildfire faces in California forests. He outlined historic fuels reduction compared to current fuels reduction, the decline of ecological and economic benefits as fuel reduction is postponed, how to use stretch goals and backcasting to achieve restoration and a desired future condition. Malcolm emphasized that the only effective means of restoring and maintaining California’s forest must include prescribed and managed fire, and provided recommendations regarding how constraints on burning may be overcome in the future. For more information, Malcolm can be contacted at


Don Hodge, Federal Environmental Protection Agency

Summary of EPA Fire Policy and Exceptional Events Rule
[Download PDF of presentation]

Don Hodge has been with the Pacific Southwest Region office of the EPA since 1994. Don gave a summary of the Exception Events Rule, which is a process to “exclude monitored exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards from consideration when designating an area as nonattainment” relative to those standards. Don’s presentation outlined the basics of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the process to exclude or include NAAQS attainment, and described the characteristics of an air quality exceedance event that would qualify under the Exceptional Events Rule. For more information on the Fire Policy Process, Don can be reached at or by phone at (415) 972-3240. For more information on Exceptional Events, contact Katherine Hoag, Air Quality Analysis Office at or by phone at (415) 972-3970.


Dar Mims, California Air Resources Board

The California Smoke Management Program as a Response to EPA Policy
[Download PDF of presentation]

Dar is the Air Pollution Specialist for the California Air Resources Board. Dar presented an overview of the Health and Safety Code as they relate to the smoke management guidelines of Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. Dar also summarized the current cooperation of CARB with local air pollution control districts through smoke management plans, air monitoring and meteorological data, and models for evaluating data and making burn day decisions. His presentation emphasized that the California Air Resources Board is committed to continued relationships with stakeholders and improving outreach and education. For more information Dar Mims can be contacted via email at


Shawn Ferreria, San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District

San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District Rules and Operation as a Response to the California Smoke Management Program
[Download PDF of presentation]

Shawn is the Senior Air Quality Specialist for the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District, which has a jurisdiction of over 25,000 square miles in 8 counties. Shawn presented on the challenges the air district faces with nonattainment for ozone and PM 2.5 and the overall district strategy on prescribed burns and wildfires. Shawn discussed the decision-making process as it relates to burning through seasonality, size, minimizing smoke emissions, location, cumulative impact, and public messaging. Shawn also introduced an ongoing collaborative effort to address the challenges faced by the air district through working closely with land managers and monitoring local and regional smoke impacts. For more information Shawn can be reached at or by phone at (559) 230-5823.

Shawn Ferreria, Senior Air Quality Specialist at the San Joaquin Valley APCD,
presents on compliance issues faced by his district.

Nick Goulette, Hayfork Watershed Research and Training Center

Exploring the Role of Prescribed Fire Councils – Lessons from Northern California and Beyond
[Download PDF of presentation]

Nick is the Director of the Hayfork Watershed Research and Training Center, the co-chair of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, and is also involved with the Klamath-Sisykiou Fire Learning Network. Nick presented a summary of issues around increasing the use of prescribed fire and how a Prescribed Fire Council in northern California and other parts of the country are coordinating to overcome the complexities of increased prescribed fire use. Nick’s presentation highlighted the successful collaboration and collective actions of other Prescribed Fire Councils through their “One message, many voices” outreach campaigns. For more information on these messaging campaign visit and Prescribed Fire Councils are quickly becoming a national organizing force and a national voice for prescribed fire use. Please visit for additional information on the National Coalition for Prescribed Fire Councils and for more information on the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council visit Nick can be contacted at and by visiting


Brent Skaggs, USDA Forest Service, Sequoia National Forest

Lion Fire Lessons Learned and the Value of Webcams for Monitoring Wildfire
[Download PDF of presentation]

Brent Skaggs is the Forest Deputy Chief on the Sequoia National Forest. Brent gave an overview of the 2011 Lion Wildland Fire in the Golden Trout Wilderness. The Sequoia National Forest is unique because of the webcams that are available on the forest and were used on the Lion Fire to monitor smoke dispersion in surrounding communities. Brent showed a series of slides, including distant views of smoke as well as close up views along the same ridgelines in different areas. The use of webcams gave the forest and the air district the ability to monitor in real time – a valuable tool in monitoring smoke from wildfires. For more information contact Brent at


Leland Tarnay, National Park Service, Yosemite National Park

Post-fire Smoke Documentation, Real Time Monitoring and Exceptional Events
[Download PDF of presentation]

Leland is the Physical Scientist and Air Resource Specialist for Yosemite National Park. He presented on the post-fire smoke documentation and monitoring data in Yosemite National Park. Specific topics Leland covered included: daily emissions monitoring on the Tamarack Fire, particulate matter measurements, webcam use, MODIS, and the Hazard Mapping System to help in monitoring fires and smoke in Yosemite National Park. The work that Leland is doing in the park has many practical applications, including public buy-in, operational decisions, and compliance with NAAQS and Title 17. The long-term goals of Yosemite are to build a knowledge base for smoke behavior in the park’s watersheds and to help build resilient landscapes that allow for more opportunity to manage fires. For more information contact Leland at