Meet the five new Prescribed Fire Apprentices

Meet the five new Prescribed Fire Apprentices

The Prescribed Fire Apprenticeship is an entry into career pathways for land stewardship and wildfire risk reduction through the use of good fire. We’re thrilled to welcome five new apprentices for the inaugural 11-month program! Pictured above from left to right are Spencer Adams, Marty Malate, Dianne Dollente, Joaquin Pastrana, Crew Lead Paul Sokolowski, and Kira Rowan.

Spencer Adams

Spencer Adams graduated from University of California, Berkeley, in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in forestry and ecosystems management. He then worked as a seasonal forestry technician at Blodgett Research Forest, a UC-owned forest in the Sierra Nevada, where much of the research focused on prescribed fire and fuel reduction treatments. The following year, Spencer worked as a utility forester in the Bay Area and became an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist. Wanting to shift more toward the world of fire, Spencer joined the U.S. Forest Service as a wildland firefighter for the 2022 season on the Cabin Lake Wildland Fire Module, based out of Deschutes National Forest in Bend, Oregon. Over the season, he gained valuable suppression experience while also training to become a Fire Effects Monitor during prescribed burns. 

“One of the main reasons I am thrilled to work with ACR and Fire Forward is that I am particularly interested in community engagement and public education pertaining to prescribed fire. As a career, I want to assist with prescribed burns and fuel reduction projects to protect communities and help with ecological restoration efforts. This position’s focus on professional development, hands-on experience, and training (especially the planning and permitting process for future burns) will be invaluable as I continue to build skills in this field.”

Dianne Dollente

Dianne Dollente lived in Southern California for most of her life until she began pursuing a career in natural resources. After a start in educating underserved students in Southern California at an Outdoor Science School, Dianne joined local conservation non-profits to find others with similar interests and to gain experience in the field. Through her internships, Dianne has worked in places such as Catalina Island, Maui, Nevada, Lassen Volcanic NP, and now, with this apprenticeship, the Bay Area. In her free time, she enjoys mushroom hunting, hosting multi-course foraged meals, and creating art.

“I have a passion for conservation, and a determination to get into working with fire – complete with tough terrain, variable weather, a heavy pack, long days after long days, the opportunity to go beyond what I thought I had in me, and a crew to do it all with. I grew up in Southern California where ash would cover the cars and school would get cancelled because the air was thick with smoke. Despite my experiences with wildfires, I know that fire can be powerful tool for healthy ecosystems and I would like to be part of a community that uses good fire and educates others about its benefits.”

Marty Malate

Marty Malate is having the best time getting to know the natural world — one he was unconscious of growing up in Manila, Philippines. Since moving to the States in 2014, then to Washington state where he finished his bachelor’s degree in forest ecology at the Evergreen State College, it’s been an explosion of curiosity, excitement, sense of purpose, and fulfillment working with the ever-dynamic and primal element that is fire. He started with Americorps stints working as a fire-effects monitor with the North Cascades National Park and as a land steward for The Nature Conservancy around Arizona. From 2020-22, he split his time monitoring fire effects in California and on a prescribed fire crew burning long-leaf pine forests in North Carolina — giving him a balance in perspective between the field research and operational aspects of prescribed fire. As a prescribed fire apprentice, he’s grateful for the opportunity to apply these skills and to learn novel ones, working in landscapes and communities in California that are intimately intertwined with fire.

“I’ve been a student of fire ever since I found myself a new home after moving from the Philippines back in 2014. I gradually learned how fire interacts with the land and learned to have an eye for its presence (or often absence) in landscapes that I’ve come to know and love. With this apprenticeship, I’d love to move toward a more permanent position, combine my skills and perspectives from the operations and fire effects monitoring worlds, and ultimately be a better land steward not just for a career but as a lifestyle and mindset.”

Joaquin Pastrana

Joaquin Pastrana is a graduate of the University of California Merced where he earned a degree in public health. While there, he began focusing on environmental health and its direct correlations to public health. This led to research about on-the-ground practices that could contribute to improving ecosystems. From there, Joaquin began working for Yolo County Resource Conservation District and the Yolo County Fire Safe Council as a GrizzlyCorps Fellow, a joint program through University of California Berkeley and AmeriCorps. With these organizations, he gained valuable experience in habitat restoration, defensible space, home hardening methods, and wildfire resilience. Joaquin also helped with the beginning development of the Yolo County Prescribed Burn Association. Before becoming a Fire Forward Prescribed Fire Apprentice, Joaquin served on a wildfire assignment in Idaho with The Nature Conservancy’s North American Burn Crew and joined Fire Forward’s Prescribed Fire Fellowship where he learned methods to become a more effective fire practitioner. 

“When I graduated with a degree in Public Health last year, I knew I was interested in the health of the environment and its relationship to humans, but I was not sure what that looked like. It wasn’t until I heard the words “Prescribed Fire” that I knew what I wanted to do, and from then on out it has been all I’ve been focused on. I am excited to be in a position where I can work closely and learn more about fire and how we can harness it to protect the quality of human life, as well as become a knowledgeable fire practitioner and teacher for the members of my community.” 

Kira Rowan

Kira Rowan was born and raised on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Her passion for caring for the land came from the culture she grew up in. After finishing community college in Hawaii, she kick-started her career in natural resource management by interning and volunteering for local nonprofits in her community. With the Kokee Resource Conservation Program she was able to learn invasive species management and as a summer intern for the National Tropical Botanical Garden she learned how to collect, grow, and care for common, rare, and endangered plant species. Near the end of 2018 she moved to Sonoma County to start her adult life away from home. Kira is now working on her associate’s degree in natural resource management and environmental studies at the Santa Rosa Junior College. She has worked multiple jobs before working for the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation as a Restoration Field Technician. Kira started her journey with fire as a Shone Farm Intern for the Wildfire Resiliency Program and is excited for where this fire bug will lead her. 

“One reason I aspire to work and be a part of the natural resources management field is that I was taught that the health of the land is my responsibility, so I want to learn about the land and how it needs to be stewarded. My goal in this apprenticeship is to learn more about what it takes to plan, prepare and implement firing operations, as well as share the importance of placing good fire back on the ground. I want to learn not only about fire, but also to strengthen my leadership, critical thinking, and communication skills.” 

Learn more about the Prescribed Fire Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship positions last one year, January through December; hiring for each year’s cohort begins in September. Five positions are available each year and are funded through a workforce development grant from CAL FIRE.

Learn more about the Prescribed Fire Apprenticeship >

Headline photo by Sasha Berleman