Orleans, CA October 24, 2018 – A wetter than expected first week of the Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) didn’t stop the event’s 87 participants from getting good work done on the ground Oct 1-13. In fact, the damp start afforded diverse participants a chance to focus more on training than in past years.

By the numbers, this year’s Klamath River TREX accomplished an impressive amount:

  • 61 training assignments within a Type III Incident Management framework
  • 277 acres burned in the wildland urban interface around local towns and homes
  • More than 104 documented contacts with locals about the need for prescribed fire

Between burning hundreds of piles of woody debris on private properties in preparation for future broadcast burns, participants paused to learn from veteran firefighters and local fire managers about how to wield a drip torch in different situations using a variety of firing patterns to achieve intended burn effects. The slower pace also allowed for presentations on the Karuk Tribe’s cultural uses of burning ranging from improved basket materials and elk habitat to healthier huckleberry patches and safer communities in the face of wildfire.

Drier weather during the second week of TREX put the group inside a safe “burn window” when temperatures, humidities, and fuel moistures cooperated with prescribed burn efforts. This window provided trainers and trainees with critical firing and holding experience needed to get firefighting qualifications recognized by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

“I’m tired and smelly and sad to leave,” first-time firefighter trainee Sara Worl said at the end of TREX.

The deliberately blackened acreage and capacity building both move TREX organizers such as the Karuk Tribe, Mid Klamath Watershed Council, US Forest Service, and Nature Conservancy’s Fire Learning Network closer to reintroducing fire at a large scale in a place that historically burned at regular intervals. However many parts of this rugged, remote country haven’t burned for 100 years or more due to federal fire suppression policies. Watershed managers and fire management agencies alike have recognized that this type of scaling up is essential for us to use fire on our own terms with local resources while creating jobs and revitalizing tribal culture.