Editor’s note: José Luis Duce Aragües and Andrea Bustos are prescribed fire training specialists with the Watershed Research and Training Center‘s Fire Management Program. Erin Banwell is the co-director of the Fire Management Program. In this blog, they describe the recent Spanish-language prescribed fire training (TREX) event held in Trinity County, CA last October, which brought together 48 participants from 10 different countries and three different states. Blog cover photo credit: Jenifer Mora (@jen.mora).
Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX) in the Spanish language bring together fire practitioners from Spanish (and Portuguese) speaking countries and the Spanish-speaking fire community local to the area. At these events, practitioners share knowledge and exchange land management experiences from their local agencies, landscapes, ecosystems and cultures, while conducting hands-on-training in planning and implementing prescribed fire opportunities with different objectives. To learn more about the general TREX program, visit the Fire Networks website.
The Watershed Research and Training Center, FAC Net’s parent organization based in Hayfork, CA, hosted the first Spanish TREX in California, and the 10th overall Spanish TREX, in October 2023.
On Sunday, October 8th, 2023, several vehicles, pick-up trucks, and fire engines arrived at “Bar 717,” or “Camp Trinity,” a summer camp facility in between Hayfork and Hyampom, Trinity County, in northern California. Inside those vehicles, lots of stories were shared during the long carpool to Trinity County from the San Francisco International Airport. Participants from Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Portugal, Spain, Mexico, New Mexico, Oregon, and California brought their experiences with land management, fire adapted communities, plans and protocols developed to manage fire, and the relationships and interactions among fire, plant communities, ecosystems, and society.
From October 8th to 22nd, those stories, knowledge, experiences, and approaches were shared among a total of almost 50 participants coming from 10 different countries, with backgrounds ranging from local fire practitioners, PBA (Prescribed Burn Association) and community fire movement members, local, state and federal fire professionals, volunteers, university students, and professors. During each of the 12 operational periods (or working days), the TREX was organized using the Incident Command System, and included training on different components of fire management and culture.
Participants were integrated in different teams to scout, evaluate, prepare, and implement pile and broadcast burns with varying objectives in diverse ecosystems; learn about the importance and “momentum” of the community-led prescribed fire movement in California; participate in drills and hands-on exercises to develop and improve professional fire skills and capacities; develop media and outreach strategies to share key messages about how and why we do what we do; learn about fire history and the relationship of this natural element with community plants, wildlife, and people in the region, and how important and necessary fire ecology is in order to take good land management decisions; get tools that will help them be an advocate for a change in fire culture; reinforce the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice and changing the culture of fire; and learn how to cope with stressful and traumatic situations in fire, work and/or personal life.
It is very difficult to capture a few single moments to exemplify the integrative, cooperative and healthy learning environment that this TREX provided to everyone involved. The human component and the network of relationships established among entities, organizations, partners, agencies, and individuals are the cornerstones of the 2023 Spanish TREX with an important impact among local California fire practitioners and partners. Thank you to the many partners who supported this event, which was a landmark in the global Spanish speaking fire community.
Some reflections from participants:
Antonella Carrasco (Ecuador)
“To be part of the TREX has been a unique experience that allowed me to know more about the ‘world fire community’. It has been a space that gives you the opportunity to create and enlarge a diverse fire network, leaving behind differences and barriers to transform our relationship with fire. As a documentary maker, I feel the responsibility to add as much as I can to this network that tries to show the importance of understanding fire as part of Mother Nature.”
Jacklynn Rodríguez (Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, Chico, California)
“This TREX in Spanish has been a wonderful experience because I was able to learn about the different perspectives and approaches to fire in different parts of the world and I had the chance to connect emotions and feelings with the environment. I was put into situations that were uncommon or uncomfortable for me but helped me step out of that comfort zone and feel growth within myself in a healthy and supporting learning environment. I could also learn and practice different techniques in fire use that will help the landscape in the future and get the objectives to improve its resiliency.”
Left, Jacklynn Rodríguez. Photo credit: Jenifer Mora (@jen.mora).
Benjamín Calle (Bolivia)
“Attending the TREX has been a new experience for me, where you can see fire further than my expectations, and by using fire under the right prescription, we can help to improve natural resources, ecosystems and protect our communities. It has also been important to me to meet new people in the fire world, their techniques, approaches, cultures, experiences… I think the TREX has been a space where we could observe and ‘feed’ each other.”
Mireya Martínez (Mexico)
“TREX has been a great opportunity for me, it marks a before and an after in my fire career; I found a place where there are no genre or knowledge differences, there is a healthy and trusting environment that allowed me to understand everybody’s vision about fire and their experiences, those perspectives that help to understand the landscapes, because, like in life, nothing is just ‘black or white’, and fire is not good or bad, fire is just: ‘fire’. This TREX has opened a new window for me and I feel really really thankful!!!”
Left: Mireya Martínez. Photo credit: Antonella Carrasco.
The work upon which this publication is based was funded in whole or in part through a Regional Forest and Fire Capacity grant awarded by the California Department of Conservation, and by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Business and Workforce Development Grants.