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About Prescribed Fire in Siskiyou County


Much of the drier and warmer areas of the American west evolved with fire over millennia.  Whether sparked by lightning in frequent summer thunderstorms or ignited by Native Americans to sustain bountiful plant and wildlife habitats, the natural landscapes of northern California were created and nurtured by frequent, small, mild to moderately intensive wildfires.  All elements of these ecosystems were “fire-adapted,” with native vegetation, animal and aquatic life living in concert with the cycles of fire return and rebirth.

Fire exclusion policies put in place in the first part of the twentieth century, coupled with a more erratic warming/drying climate regime today, have combined to create conditions where large and severe wildfires dominate the western US.  Not only has the disruption of the historic fire cycle resulted in a buildup of uncharacteristically high fuel loads, it has also allowed invasive plant species to choke out healthy and diverse native fire-evolved plant and animal communities, creating ecosystems that are significantly departed from their natural state.

    What is Prescribed Fire?

    Prescribed fire, sometimes referred to as controlled burning or broadcast burning, is a planned burn that can be used as a land management tool to meet a variety of benefits. Effective prescribed fire treatments have proven to limit wildfire size and intensity, which reduces the emissions of wildfire smoke, preserves critical wildlife habitat, restores healthy fire-adaptive landscapes, and reduces severe wildfire risk to

    Benefits of Prescribed Burning

    • Reducing hazardous fuels contributes to protecting homes and communities during wildfire events;
    • Improving forest health by promoting resiliency to impacts of high severity wildfire and reducing forest density that makes forests more susceptible to drought and insect infestations;
    • Reducing tree competition, promoting long-term growth rates and retention of older trees that maximize carbon sequestration and are more fire-resistant;
    • Restoring grasslands and meadows by removing or preventing encroaching conifers and brush;
    • Reducing invasive species and revitalize native species;
    • Increasing water percolation and surface-groundwater interactions from thinning small trees and drought-intolerant species that take up large amounts of water, which protects fish habitat and improves overall stream health;
    • Protecting streams from sediment that erodes after severe wildfires;
    • Restoring cultural resources and values to local Tribes;
    • Enhancing community preparedness to wildfire events;
    • Improving economic viability of communities by reducing the economic impacts of high-intensity wildfires;
    • Providing training opportunities for local firefighters;
    • Promoting outreach and education to the community about fire.

    The application of prescribed fire has been largely led by federal land management agencies.  These organizations possess the trained fire professionals, equipment, and funding to effectively use fire as a management tool. Wildfires do not respect ownership boundaries, which is why the Siskiyou PBA aims to expand the use of prescribed fire to the private lands whose owners have had little to no resources to implement this critical land management tool.

    Now, more than ever, fire experts, researchers, tribal practitioners, and community leaders are calling on prescribed fire to restore fire’s historic role on our landscapes and prevent the uncharacteristic wildfires that are threatening our communities and natural resources at an unprecedented scale.