Year-long internship offers SRJC students “deeper understanding” of controlled burning

Year-long internship offers SRJC students “deeper understanding” of controlled burning

Fire practitioners Max Psaledakis and Eric Radcliffe express how this year-long internship gave them a sense of the community and deeper understanding of prescribed burning. In the above photo, Eric Radcliffe pauses using a chainsaw to smile.

Students receive ample field experience with “good fire”

This past academic year, Santa Rosa Junior College partnered with us to create a Fire Forward internship for students seeking experience with controlled burning. Two of the interns, Max Psaledakis and Eric Radcliffe, had a chance to reflect on what made their experience unique—and worthwhile.

“The community here has been a huge part of why this was a positive experience,” says Radcliffe. He applied for this internship in 2021 after deciding to explore career options within the fire service; this internship seemed like a perfect opportunity.

One of the courses covered during the internship was the S-212 Wildland Fire Chainsaws Course, where Radcliff learned the basics of chainsaw safety and also gained confidence to fell trees, clear charred logs, and reduce fuel ladders. When asked about unexpected lessons from the internship, Radcliffe pauses.

“Gaining an understanding of the intrinsic value of fire has been influential, as well as how fire can be used as a way to manage land,” Radcliffe expresses. “We have been able to learn a lot from mapping days, field days, chainsaw courses—it’s hard not to love a chainsaw course, I have to say,” he adds with a laugh. 

The S-212 Wildland Fire Chainsaws Course teaches the basics of chainsaw safety and also equips interns with the skills and confidence to clear felled trees, charred logs, and reduce fuel ladders. 

When asked about unexpected lessons from the internship, Radcliffe pauses.

“This internship has allowed me to meet a lot of people from various walks of life come together for a common cause. I love that.”

Internship has “required a big shift” in view of fire

Max Psaledakis has also been impressed with what he has learned during the past nine months. Before the internship, he already had a strong background in wildland firefighting, so “coming into the prescribed fire world has required a big shift in how I viewed fire.”

Psaledakis understands why fire in California has a mixed reputation.

“Being a local and an outdoors professional, I know firsthand how large fires can affect the landscape. My goal with this internship was to start a new chapter and build a positive relationship with fire that I could share with others.”

Before his interest in wildland firefighting, Psaledakis was exposed to fire management at an early age. His father is a volunteer with Glen Ellen Fire Protection District and Psaledakis himself joined the Kenwood Fire Protection District at age 14. “I grew up surrounded by the fire department and attribute a lot of who I am to that,” he says.

When asked what has surprised him most, Psaledakis says that “the community-based volunteerism has been amazing to witness. There’s also a lot more openness to good fire than I imagined. There’s a gentleman we burn with in Lake County who has been working with us and each time we lead prescribed burns with him, he is stoked.”

Special thanks to Eric Radcliffe and Max Psaledakis for taking time to discuss their experience with us, and for their commitment to “good fire” and community. Learn more about the important work that SRJC’s Natural Resources Program and Fire Forward for ways to get involved!