Prescribed Fire

The essential role of fire

Fire caused by lightning, and cultural fire used by indigenous peoples for millennia, has shaped and maintained the forests of the Rogue Basin. Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and scientific studies have demonstrated that regular fires occurred every 5-10 years or more frequently in our local dry forest ecosystems. These burns, which were usually low- to moderate-intensity, removed small brush and trees, cleared fallen debris from the forest floor, maintained wildlife habitat, enhanced cultural resources, and improved forest health.

In the absence of regular fire, large areas of forest have grown overly dense, and are at much higher risk of severe wildfire and issues with insects and disease. Even where dense complex forests occurred historically, studies suggest that such areas are now threatened by severe fire delivered by the surrounding area.

Returning beneficial fire to the ecosystem is essential to restoring forest health. Partners must first set the stage for the reintroduction of fire through ecological thinning and hand pile burning, to reduce the amount of fuels and create optimal conditions for beneficial fire. Practitioners can then conduct an understory prescribed burn by creating a containment line and then carefully apply fire to the ground, allowing it to slowly creep across the forest or meadow floor, devouring duff, leaf litter, and downed woody debris.

Prescribed understory burns are the most cost effective, ecologically-optimal tool for maintaining restoration treatments over time. Once an area has been thinned and burned in prescribed fire, a subsequent wildfire will generally behave in a more benign or even beneficial way. Additionally, wildfires burning through an area that has been recently thinned and underburned produce half as much smoke compared with fires in untreated areas.

Rogue Basin Prescribed Fire Training Exchange TREX logo
Learning Together, Burning Together.

The Rogue Basin Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (RBTREX) is a collaboration between local agencies, non-profits, and community organizations advancing local capacity to put prescribed fire to work in ecological restoration and providing hands-on training opportunities. RBTREX brings together new and seasoned fire practitioners looking to gain experience and advance their certifications on live understory prescribed fire operations.

Additional Resources

Using bird species such as Nashville Warbler to monitor increases in understory habitat.

Prescribed Fire Basics with OSU

OSU’s Fire Program has published a 12-part collection of modules to provide introductory-level information on prescribed burning.

Lomakatsi tribal crew gains experience, help returns good fire through RBTREX

LRP Tribal crew gains experience

As descendants of the first, best stewards of the land, tribal restoration forestry crew members bring essential knowledge to 2023 RBTREX.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher, photo by Frank Lospalluto

Inter-tribal crews with RBTREX

Tribal members from the Cultural Fire Management Council and Lomakatsi Restoration Project gained valuable experience at RBTREX.