Prescribed fire could help Mendocino County Ranchers and Farmers
Prepare for Future Fires
When the 2017 Redwood Complex fire decimated 33,000 acres, more than three quarters of the land that burned was rangeland. Livestock died and grazing land incinerated. For a rancher or farmer, just getting back to their property during an emergency fire evacuation and through road blocks can be a matter of life or death for thirsty, hungry animals, or to save the year’s crop.
The idea is to learn how to ecologically shepherd the land in a combination of both new and old ways - ways that harnesses the animals themselves as roving preventive firefighters, eating the fuel load before it becomes explosive tinder. There’s also a growing movement to literally fight fire with fire - a practice that would stop making outlaws of ranchers and farmers who have been quietly back burning their own ranch land for generations - as have native peoples who used fire for a millennia to manage the land.
Last week, local fire experts held a free workshop and community potluck at the Willits Little Lake Grange to teach fire resiliency on the farm. The event was sponsored by CAFF - the Community Alliance with Family Farms, the Mendocino Farmers Guild, The UC Cooperative Extension and North Coast Opportunities.
After a community meal, ranchers picked up tips for preparedness and fire recovery, and shared stories of fire survival. Ranchers Adam Gaska of Redwood Valley and Kyle Farmer of Potter Valley, both volunteer firefighters, who operate ranches that are home to hundreds of grass-fed animals, talked about the unique challengers farmers face during a catastrophic fire event.
One way to slow down a future fire is to learn how to proactively burn the land first - with a prevention program called “prescribed burning,” which is drawing interest from the Mendocino County ag community, said Imil Ferara from the Mendocino Fire Safe Council.
After the appreciative turnout of farmers, ranchers and gardeners at last week’s fire resiliency workshop in Willits, event organizer Britta Leigh Baskerville, the Community Education Specialist for Climate Smart Agriculture at the UC Cooperative Extension, said she is planning to host another fire prevention workshop.
For information on local fire safe councils and prescribed burn associations, contact the Mendocino County Fire Safe Council: www.firesafemendocino.org
A full list of fire resiliency resources for ranchers and farmers will be available soon on the CAFF Farmers Guild website at www.caff.org
The UC Cooperative Extension
Community Education Specialist for Climate Smart
Britta Leigh Baskerville
North Coast Opportunities Disaster Preparedness Grants:
Emergency Preparedness in Communities (EPIC)
Megan Watson, coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
The Community Foundation of Mendocino County
Community Resiliency and Preparedness Fund
Michele Rich (707) 468-9882 ext 105.
University of California
Publication listing numerous fire recovery resources:
Recovering From Wildfire: A Guide for California’s Forest Landowners; http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu