Community members across the North Bay are learning the intricacies of “good fire” as part of Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Fire Forward fellowship program. Fellows grow their controlled burning leadership knowledge over the course of one year and 300 hours of training. Supported by their employers, the 15 fellows receive one-on-one mentoring, classroom and field-based courses, and experience working on prescribed burns.
Gear is provided with a generous grant from California Fire Foundation and stipends for Fellows by the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation. Each Fellow has a capstone project where they partner with a landowner to plan and organize a prescribed burn.
The experiences of the fellowship prepare participants to act as a fireline leader on prescribed burns, gain certifications, and progress toward becoming California state-certified burn bosses — increasing the North Bay’s capacity to safely implement prescribed burning in support of healthy ecosystems.
Fellows become land stewards across the Bay Area
This is the second cohort of Fire Fellows. Peter Nelson, graduate of the first Fire Forward class, Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley, and tribal citizen of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, reflects on his time in the fellowship: “I’m thankful for the Audubon Canyon Ranch Fire Forward program and everything it’s taught me about prescribed burning and fire. I’ve picked up a lot of experience in prescribed burning and cultural burning over these past few years, and I’m taking that with me in my tribe, my personal life, and my academic work studying indigenous stewardship and how we can put these practices appropriately back on the land.” Other fellows from the first cohort are now bringing the knowledge and qualifications gained in their time with the Fellowship back to a wide variety of land stewarding agencies across the Bay Area.
Meet the fellows, 2022-23:
“For the past 6 years, I have been working at the interface of fire ecology research and management across California’s diverse ecosystems. Broadly, I am interested in providing empirical data to overcome the challenges we face with balancing anthropogenic perturbations with the protection of natural resources. I was immediately drawn to prescribed fire as a way to manage resources and reduce the buildup of fuels, as Indigenous people had for centuries before colonization. As such, I have dedicated myself to understanding fire, respecting fire, and supporting fire. I have been ecstatic to get involved with the Good Fire Alliance community and am continually inspired by their dedication to increasing community-based burning.”