An exciting and important set of trainings, known as Cal-TREX—short for “California prescribed fire Training Exchange”—will take place at several locations in Butte County—including the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER)—this fall and winter. Hands-on trainings occur the weekends of Oct. 15–16 and 22–23, with on-call prescribed fire projects occurring through March 2023.

This event brings together more than 110 members of federal, state, tribal, local nonprofits and private landowner partners in a joint effort to learn prescribed fire best practices and restore the ecological and community protection benefits of “good fire.” By using an “All Hands, All Lands” approach, these weekend trainings will focus on building a local prescribed fire crew, and will incorporate hands-on field scenarios, fireline leadership skills, local fire ecology, cultural burning and fire management. The TREX model provides peer-to-peer learning and training for fire professionals to gain certifications and experience.

BCCER is just one of the many agencies that are coordinating and have scheduled these trainings. Current Chico State undergraduate and graduate students are scheduled to work these trainings, with the majority of the University’s graduate students coming from all three of the Wildland Management Program’s cohorts.

BCCER Director Eli Goodsell said that being faced with the annual threat of destructive wildfires, cooperating regional entities hosting Cal-TREX see prescribed fire as a critical tool to get ahead of the problem. Fire plays a key ecological role in California, but that role has been absent for well over a century. The wildfires of today are a result of multiple factors, but a powerful driver of extreme fire behavior is the accumulation of vegetation. Historically these fuels were reduced by regular intervals of fire, resulting from lightning ignitions and indigenous burning.

“Prescribed fire 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 conduct these projects now to protect our local communities, enhance our ecosystems and continue the conversation around the important role that prescribed fire plays on our landscapes.”

The Cal-TREX events will be an opportunity for participants to gain hands-on experience, as well as a deeper understanding of the ecological importance of prescribed fire. Participants in TREX will become a part of an “on-call” team that will be notified on short notice to conduct safe and effective prescribed burn events when weather conditions change to favor wildfire mitigation and habitat improvement. ​​Potential burn sites will create some smoke that may be visible throughout the community. When seeing a little bit of smoke impact, it should be known that under the proper conditions, this will benefit our community from larger smoke impacts in the future. All planned and prescribed burns this season will be permitted and approved by the appropriate local and state agencies.

This important training is made possible through 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, 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 to visit (including live fire visits) can be directed to the events’ public information officer, Gary Day, at BCCER@csuchico.edu or 530-342-1371.