Nationally recognized mandatory fire safety training in Butte County

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An exciting and important series of training known as Cal-TREX — short for “California Mandatory Fire Training Exchange” — will be held at multiple locations in Butte County this fall and winter — including the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER). Practical training takes place on the weekends of 15-16. and 22.-23. October, with mandatory on-demand fire safety projects taking place through March 2023.

This event brings together more than 110 members from federal, state, tribal, local nonprofit and private landowners to collectively learn prescribed fire best practices and restore the environmental and community conservation benefits of a “good fire.” Using an “All Hands, All Lands” approach, these weekend training courses focus on building a locally mandated firefighting crew and include practical field scenarios, fire line leadership skills, local fire ecology, cultural combustion and fire management. The TREX model provides peer-to-peer learning and training for firefighters to gain certification and experience.

BCCER is just one of many agencies that coordinate and plan these trainings. Current Chico State undergraduate and graduate students are scheduled to participate in these training courses, with the majority of the university’s graduate students coming from all three Wildland Management Program cohorts.

BCCER Director Eli Goodsell said that with the annual threat of devastating wildfires, collaborating regional facilities hosting Cal-TREX see the mandated fire as a crucial tool to stay ahead of the problem. Fire plays an important ecological role in California, but that role has been missing for well over a century. Today’s wildfires are the result of multiple factors, but a strong driver of extreme fire behavior is vegetation accumulation. Historically, these fuels have been reduced by regular firing intervals resulting from flash ignitions and indigenous burns.

“Regulatory fire safety projects are an excellent learning opportunity for our students and fire professionals while promoting forest health and mitigating future catastrophic fires,” said Goodsell (Criminal Justice, ’07; MA, Environmental Policy and Planning, ’11). “It is important that we undertake these projects now to protect our local communities, improve our ecosystems and continue the conversation about the important role that prescribed fire plays in our landscapes.”

Cal-TREX events provide attendees with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of the ecological importance of mandated fires. Participants in TREX become part of a preparedness team that is notified at short notice to conduct safe and effective prescribed fire events when weather conditions change to promote wildfire containment and habitat improvement. ​​Potential fire sites will produce some smoke that may be visible throughout the community. If you see a little smoke impact, know that given the right conditions, this will benefit our community from greater smoke impact in the future. All planned and mandated burns this season will be sanctioned and approved by the appropriate local and state authorities.

This important training is made possible through the collaboration of local, state and federal organizations including the US Forest Service, Butte County Resource Conservation District, Butte County Air Quality Management District, Hayfork Watershed Resource Center, Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve and the Plumas County Fire Safe Council, Butte County Fire Safe Council, Plumas Underburn Cooperation, Feather River College, City of Chico and the US Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Media with questions or requests for a visit (including live fire visits) may be directed to the events Public Information Officer, Gary Day, at [email protected] or 530-342-1371.

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