ACR’s Fire Forward Initiative is working with public and private agencies, our neighbors, and community members to facilitate a renewed approach to our relationship with fire in the North Bay area—one that acknowledges our fire-adapted and fire-dependent landscapes and incorporates this understanding into all aspects of our regional culture. Through science-based approaches to land management, including prescribed fire and other fuels treatments, we can learn to live with fire rather than suffer catastrophic losses.

Our Objectives:

  • Engage the public and media in fire ecology and fire preparedness education and outreach
  • Work in coordination with diverse agencies and land managers throughout the region to design and implement fuels treatments, including prescribed burning, mechanical thinning, grazing, and browsing
  • Establish and conduct extensive scientific monitoring protocol for fire and fuels treatments effects

Additonal Reading: National Wildfire Cohesive Strategy brochure (pdf).

Fire Forward is funded in part by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, CAL FIRE and its California Forest Improvement Program, The Nature Conservancy, and US Forest Service - Region 5.  

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Frequently Asked Questions About Fire and Fuels Management

Why is fire important to the ecosystem? Fire is a core ecological process in most California ecosystems. For thousands of years, Native Americans utilized fire in California as a tool to manage landscapes for food, textile production, and improved wildlife habitat. In the North Bay specifically, nearly all of our terrestrial ecosystems depend on site-specific fire regimes. Here, plant species are nearly all adapted to specific fire types and animal species depend on effects of fire to thrive and coexist in balance. The healthy function of our ecosystems cannot be untied from this core ecosystem process. After over a century of fire suppression, however, California landscapes are in a dire fire deficit. Where fire has been long suppressed, we struggle with threatened human safety as tremendous wildfires become imminent in the face of accumulating fuel loads and lengthened fire seasons. Fire agencies, land managers and researchers have learned over recent decades that fire cannot be prevented, only postponed, often with drastic consequences. 

How safe are controlled burns? No fire is completely safe. However, because they are carefully monitored and managed, controlled burns rarely create unintended consequences. In 2012, for example, the National Interagency Fire Center reported that 16,626 controlled burns treated 1,971,834 acres. Of those 16,626 fires, only 14 exceeded the defined perimeter (0.08%). ACR, in collaboration with CalFire and local fire departments, will have adequate resources on site to quickly control any unexpected condition.

What about the smoke? Controlled burns are managed to minimize smoke impacts. Smoke and emissions from controlled burns are significantly less negatively impactful than those from wildfires. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has strict controls on when prescribed burns may occur in order to ensure that weather conditions are appropriate to dissipate the smoke. We will not be able to proceed with the burn until we get a green light from the Air District the morning of the burn. Additionally, if smoke somehow unexpectedly becomes a public health problem, contingency response plans are in place to reduce smoke problems, which include extinguishing the fire if necessary.

What about animals living in the burn zone? Animals that live in California’s landscapes coevolved with regular fires in their native habitat. Many of these animals even depend on fire to maintain their habitat. During a burn, research has shown that ground burrowing animals typically survive fires by staying in their burrows until the fire has passed.

Additionally, in the year following a controlled burn in grassland or oak savannah, an increase in the presence of deer is commonly noted due to improved forage quality.