Get To Know Feather River RCD

The Feather River RCD

The Feather River Resource Conservation District (RCD) is located in the Sacramento Valley region, with its district boundary encompassing roughly the area of Plumas County. Agricultural production largely consists of hay crops, cattle and other livestock, and timber. Plumas County ranked fifth in California’s list of leading timber counties. The Feather River watershed is the largest in the Sierra Nevada. Their current work focuses on forest health, managing noxious weeds, and improving wetlands. Forest health and wildfire prevention is a priority for community members, and the RCD has responded by investing in the local prescribed fire organization.

Building Capacity for the Plumas Underburn Co-operative

The Feather River RCD received a 2018 Fire Prevention Program grant from CAL FIRE to build capacity for the Underburn Co-operative. The Underburn Co-operative, formerly known as the Plumas Prescribed Burn Association, is comprised of a group of landowners and community members working together to use prescribed fire as a management tool on private property.  It is coordinated by the Plumas County Fire Safe Council.

With the funding, the RCD and the Underburn Co-operative has and will continue to:

    1. Provide training for volunteer firefighters to prepare them to use prescribed fire. Volunteers can earn their Basic Red Card, learn about smoke management, complete Burn Boss training, and complete TREX training exchange for prescribed fire. They can also be involved in the National Wildfire Coordinating Group
    2. Put on a workshop for members of the public giving an overview on prescribed fire. The workshop covers smoke management, burn days, liability, fire ecology, fire behavior, and economic analysis
    3. Put on workshops for members of the public focusing on one in-depth topic such burn plan design, smoke management plan, and the liability
    4. Buy tools necessary for the Underburn Co-operative to implement prescribed fire such as a trailer, drip torches and backpack pumps

Attendees to the Plumas Underburn Co-operative work day watch a pile building/burning demonstration. Photo courtesy of the Feather River RCD.

Community Attitudes Towards Prescribed Fire

Brad Graevs, District Manager for the Feather River RCD, spoke about the community’s attitude towards prescribed fire:”We’ve had a lot of support for the Underburn Co-operative. There is a shift in the culture around fire here. People are excited about fire because they are realizing that there are different types of fire, and good [prescribed] fire is better than bad fire. Our main focus is getting fire on the ground and we have been going and assessing properties to get an idea of what needs to be done. We’ve helped with one burn so far, and hopefully we will actually have some burn windows in the fall, which usually doesn’t happen. Right now it’s difficult because there aren’t a lot of people who have their land prepped.”

The fuel arrangement in a conifer forest is complex—there are ladder fuels which need to be removed to prevent fire from scorching the canopies, there is a great variety in the fuels that are on the ground which leads to different burn times (needle dust, stump holes, large logs that can burn for weeks or months), and a range of moisture changes in the fuel. In comparison, grassland is easier to prepare for a burn because the fuels are—for the most part—homogeneous, light, one-hour fuels. Despite the added complexity of a conifer forest, the community members are eager to learn how to use prescribed fire as a tool to manage wildfire.

The Feather River RCD will be hosting a field day on November 9, 2019 to teach community members on how to prepare for a burn. Stay up-to-date on the RCD by visiting their Facebook page.