Northern California prescribed-burning community brings expertise and enthusiasm to aid protected lands in Sonoma County

Northern California prescribed-burning community brings expertise and enthusiasm to aid protected lands in Sonoma County

Congratulations to Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve in the Sonoma Mountain area and Cooley Ranch in northern Sonoma County for hosting Northern California burners who put good fire on the ground this past Memorial Day weekend. Both of these controlled burns on privately held lands went off without a hitch, another sign of the growth of prescribed burn partnerships in the region.

30 acres of grassland on Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve managed by the Sonoma Ecology Center were treated with fire to control invasive medusahead grass and improve habitat for a diversity of CA native bloomers. Weeks of preparation by SEC with direction from Burn Boss Phil Dye of Prometheus Fire Consulting and ACR’s Fire Forward team paid off Friday morning as volunteers from the Good Fire Alliance, the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department, and Santa Clara County Parks donned PPE and set the burn in motion.

“Cooperative, community-based burns are how we grow a culture of good fire,” said Jared Childress, co-organizer of the Good Fire Alliance. “It’s also a very effective way to achieve ecological objectives while increasing the scale of safely treated acres in the region.”

Leslie Lew, a volunteer burner and member of the Good Fire Alliance said she was “grateful for the opportunity to reintroduce fire and enhance the biodiversity of the preserve.” Attending her first prescribed burn, Good Fire Alliance member Amanda Botsford said she felt welcomed, safe and encouraged to jump in with field work. “Logistics were impeccable, safety was a priority, the staff professional and eager to teach,” she added.

“We are excited to demonstrate this effective, time-honored land management approach that can rejuvenate the amazing wildflower meadows of the Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve,” said SEC Senior Project Manager Caitlin Cornwall prior to the burn.

On Sunday, Fire Forward, the Good Fire Alliance and Mendocino VFD burners were back at it in the steep rugged terrain and mixed habitat of Cooley Ranch. They were joined by other regional fire partners—Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District and Anderson Valley FD—as well as the newly-formed Mendocino County Prescribed Burn Association.

Bob Cooley of Cooley Ranch and son Crawford hosted the event, enlisting burn boss Norm Brown to direct the 112-acre prescribed burn, which was designed to eliminate dangerous woody debris, halt the encroachment of brush and Douglas fir trees, and cut short this year’s growth of invasive barbed goatgrass.

“Everybody played a very important role,” Bob said, adding that he is excited about getting others to be proactive in their burning. “When brush is overgrown in some areas fire is the only thing you can use effectively.”

ACR’s Fire Forward—a supporting partner in the Good Fire Alliance—helped to coordinate the burn plans, equipment, and training opportunities for both events. CAL FIRE issued the permits.

“I was truly impressed by the great attitudes and work ethic of the many awesome volunteers that came out this weekend,” said Fire Forward Director Sasha Berleman. “Cooperatively-conducted prescribed burning is only possible with the commitment of landowners like the Cooleys and we look forward to these continued partnerships in the coming months.”

Both properties are protected under conservation easements held by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space.

Audubon Canyon Ranch is very pleased to have contributed to these back-to-back burns.

This work is made possible by the generous funding of individual donors and the Farley Family Charitable Foundation, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, California Deer Association as well as in-kind support from Mystery Ranch and True North Gear Inc.

Learn more about Fire Forward at

Connect with the Good Fire Alliance at

Check out a previous burn at Cooley Ranch

Bonus video: Drone footage of the Van Hoosear burn from Sonoma Ecology Center: