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Indigenous Fire, Forestry, and Fuels Crew

Building Climate Resilience and Relationship with Fire in SoCal

Photo by Joelene Tamm

Background

Many of Southern California’s Tribes are actively exploring pathways for bringing cultural burning back to the land, supporting and leading prescribed fire management, and advancing a model for co-management of ancestral homelands that are managed by non-tribal entities. Even though culturing burning has been practiced for thousands of years to rejuvenate ecosystems and control fuel loads, past and current regulations and requirements imposed on reservation federal trust-lands are serving as significant barriers. The intention of this project is to initiate a process for advancing opportunities for capacity building training so that Tribes lead and advance fire stewardship, restoration and management actions in collaboration and cooperation with state and local jurisdictional partners.

 

Prescribed fire and cultural burns strengthen our ability to steward the land and protect the resources that are vital to ecological and cultural resilience. In addition, climate change will further exacerbate conditions leading to large, catastrophic fires with potential for large-scale economic, ecological, cultural, and social impacts. This program will support a cadre of Tribal  fire managers trained in fire, forestry and fuels management to advance resilient and adaptive pathways for stewarding the land.

All photos courtesy of Joelene Tamm, Natural Resources Program Director for the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians.

Approach

Phase 1

PHASE ONE: 

Building Capacity for Recruitment and Training

Outreach and recruitment for individuals that have little to no experience with fuels reduction work. Candidates would be hired on by a forestry fuels crew which would also travel throughout San Diego County to assist with forestry and fuels reduction projects. Crews are trained on tool use maintenance and training to cut fuel breaks, maintain fuel breaks, create burn piles, plant, and maintain seedlings. These are paid positions with training provided for basic fuels reduction skills coupled with opportunities to learn industry lingo, and gain work experience. This approach will give participants in-depth experience, marketable job skills, and exposure to forestry, fire, and cultural resource jobs. Participants will be able to obtain prerequisites needed to advance into fire crew training. Prerequisites vary for each class, but a non-inclusive list is CPR, First Aid, radio communications, and safety.

Fuels crew worker preparing to fuel chainsaw.

Fuels crew burning piles of limbs from dead tree removal projects.

Fuels crew worker utilizing excavator to accelerate removal of large woody debris from tree removal.

Phase 2

PHASE ONE: 

Fire Crew Certification

Provide the education and the certifications required to become part of a fire crew or an intertribal prescribed burn crew. A qualified crew for wildland fire could be placed in the geographical ordering system. The necessary training to become a basic wildland fire fighter is the National Wildland Coordinating Group (NWCG) courses (non-inclusive list): L-180 Human factors in the wildland fire service; S-110 Basic Wildland fire orientation; S-130 Fire fighter training; S-190 Introduction to wildland fire behavior; S-212 Wildland fire chainsaws.

Pauma Tribal Fuels Crew workers assist La Jolla Forestry Crew as part of the NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) Forest Improvement Project.

Photo of the Pauma Indian Reservation Fuels Project, where limbs were removed from trees in efforts to allow fire to burn along the ground without spreading to the canopy.

Pauma Tribal Fuels Crew workers assist La Jolla Forestry Crew as part of the NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) Forest Improvement Project.

Phase 3

PHASE ONE: 

Fire Crew Certification

Provide the education and the certifications required to become part of a fire crew or an intertribal prescribed burn crew. A qualified crew for wildland fire could be placed in the geographical ordering system. The necessary training to become a basic wildland fire fighter is the National Wildland Coordinating Group (NWCG) courses (non-inclusive list): L-180 Human factors in the wildland fire service; S-110 Basic Wildland fire orientation; S-130 Fire fighter training; S-190 Introduction to wildland fire behavior; S-212 Wildland fire chainsaws.

Basic Arborist, tree climbing, safety, pruning, and rope rescue for La Jolla and Pauma Crews.

Basic Arborist, tree climbing, safety, pruning, and rope rescue for La Jolla and Pauma Crews.

Basic Arborist, tree climbing, safety, pruning, and rope rescue for La Jolla and Pauma Crews.

Support

A special thank you to the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians for hosting the Indigenous Fire, Forestry, and Fuels Crew. Thank you to Chief Wesley Ruise Jr. and Joelene Tamm for their leadership, vision, and perseverance to bring the idea to life.

 

Support for the Crew also comes from the Southern California Interagency Wildland Fire and Fuels Cadre, a group of agency partners who contribute their time and expertise to plan and implement the Indigenous Fire Stewardship pathway training events, and support advancement of the Crew.

Funding for this project comes from the California Department of Conservation and the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County.

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