Prescribed Burn Planned for the Santa Lucia Preserve June 7-8

Prescribed Burn Planned for the Santa Lucia Preserve June 7-8

CCPBA participants work on mop-up at the 2022 Dairy Field Prescribed Burn. Photo by Alix Soliman.

LAST UPDATED 5/30/2023 at 8:00 p.m.

In collaboration with the Santa Lucia Conservancy, the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association (CCPBA) will be conducting a prescribed burn on The Preserve June 7 or 8 as part of the first California Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (Cal-TREX) hosted in the region. Because prescribed burns are dependent on weather conditions, the date of the burn is subject to change with little notice. We will update this post as new information becomes available.

The prescribed burn will occur along Rancho San Carlos Road to the southwest, from Cantera Run to Williams Canyon. The Williams Canyon parking lot and trail will be closed during the burn, starting at 7:00 a.m., to stage engines and personnel. A road closure may also go into effect along this stretch of Rancho San Carlos Road, depending on weather and smoke conditions. We recommend drivers be prepared to use Chamisal Pass as a detour if necessary.

Burn Unit

The Lips burn unit was strategically chosen to improve ingress and egress safety for firefighters and residents in the event of a wildfire coming from Big Sur and Los Padres National Forest to the southwest of The Preserve (as occurred during the 2016 Soberanes Fire). The Lips burn unit is 33 acres and will primarily burn the understory of mixed evergreen and hardwood forest. If soil and vegetation moisture are too high to conduct the planned broadcast burn, CCPBA participants may return to the site when conditions are more favorable.

Safety Precautions

Smoke plumes from the prescribed burn are anticipated and will likely be seen from Carmel Valley and Hwy 1. The CCTREX works closely with the Monterey Bay Air Resources District (MBARD) to assure good smoke dispersal, however, smoke may persist in the air for several days depending on weather conditions. Prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and remains concentrated for a shorter period than smoke from wildland fires. 

To ensure that our community is safe during prescribed burns, standard safety procedures require a “burn plan” outlining the personnel required, equipment needed, a narrow window of acceptable weather conditions (known as the burn prescription), contingency planning, and required air quality and burn permits. There will be five fire engines and a bull dozer in the area along with personnel. All precautions are in place to protect the surrounding area and environment.

Goals of the burn

The purpose of this TREX is to help build wildfire preparedness workforce capacity in the area, promote the use of good fire in reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire, and help private landowners manage fuel loads. Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges first came to Northern California in 2013, and have supported a positive cultural shift concerning prescribed fire, within both regional fire services and the general public. 

The Central Coast TREX will provide experiential training opportunities to advance regional prescribed fire capacity while enhancing research to better understand the ecological response of wild plant and animal species following fire. At this TREX event, participants will learn how to safely conduct prescribed burns in various vegetation types across three counties. 

Along with multiple prescribed burns, the week-long program hosted at the Conservancy’s office will include lectures and seminars on local fire ecology of plant and animal species, tribal burning practices and burn planning, led by multiple burn bosses and other fire experts.

In addition to the Santa Lucia Preserve burn units, this TREX may also include burns on the Nyland property (owned by the Trust for Public Lands and San Benito Ag Land Trust) near San Juan Bautista, the Mount Madonna Center (owned by Hanuman Fellowship) near Watsonville, and the Kechun Village (owned by the Nason family) in Arroyo Seco.

Benefits of Prescribed Fire

Many of California’s native plants rely on fire to provide nutrients and help seeds germinate. In the absence of periodic, low-intensity fires, fuels accumulate, habitats degrade, invasive plants proliferate, and the risk of catastrophic wildfire increases. By bringing prescribed burns back to the land, we can lower the risk of catastrophic wildfire and help restore fire-adapted landscapes across California. 

Indigenous peoples of California traditionally harnessed the power of fire to clear underbrush, eradicate pests, recycle nutrients, drive wildlife into traps and mark territories, among other uses. After a century of federal fire suppression that has contributed to catastrophic wildfires across the West, cultural and prescribed burning are finally being recognized and encouraged as one of the best tools to reintroduce disturbance to the landscape and restore natural ecological processes.

Creating “Fire-permeability” on The Santa Lucia Preserve

The Conservancy has over a decade of prescribed fire experience. We conducted our first prescribed burn in 2009 on two small grasslands covering a total of 47 acres. Since then, we have conducted prescribed burns in San Francisquito Flats in 2010 and 2012, around Moore’s Lake and Ohlone Pond in 2015, and on the Animus and privately-owned lots in 2021. To date, we have sponsored 10 members of our staff in acquiring Wildland Firefighter Type II (FFT2) certifications, participated in prescribed fire workshops, and assisted with several prescribed fires in the region through the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association (CCPBA).

Our prescribed fire work is part of a larger strategy to establish resilient ecosystems and create a fire-permeable landscape that allows fire to move through at a lower intensity, benefiting our native species without threatening life, property, or unique and valuable natural resources. This strategy includes conservation cattle grazing, goat grazing, invasive weed removal, shaded fuel breaks, maintaining strategic fuel breaks in partnership with CAL FIRE, and  lot-specific fuel management plans that go above and beyond establishing defensible space around homes. 

Agency Partnerships

The Santa Lucia Conservancy will conduct these burns with the close coordination of a number of local, state, and federal agencies. With a burn permit from CAL FIRE, the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association (CCPBA) will conduct this burn under the direction of Burn Boss Jared Childress with Ember Fire Consulting. Members of local fire districts will be in attendance. 

Please visit the CCPBA website for the most up-to-date information about upcoming burns. For inquiries about the prescribed burn on The Preserve, please contact Executive Director Jamison Watts at [email protected] or (831) 402-9694.