CSU Spring Break Burning
In early March 2012, five members of the Colorado State University Student Association for Fire Ecology (SAFE) set out on an unusual spring break trip to a small town in northern Nebraska to learn about prescribed fire through hands-on experience. The Fire Learning Network training exchange program, sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, attracted a variety of groups including local landowners, land managers, college students and professional firefighters. The groups worked together to burn 2455 acres in one week while meeting with landowners and learning about the realities of using prescribed fire as a land management tool.
Colorado State students quickly became familiar with the intricacies of a prescribed burning operation. Students saw how fire behavior changes with fuels and winds - principles they had studied in class but may not have previously experienced first-hand. They learned about using ignition patterns to meet burn objectives while staying safely contained within the desired perimeter. They also operated fire management tools including drip torches, hoses and pumps, hand tools and engines. The sharing of leadership and expertise between experienced prescribed fire practitioners and inexperienced trainees was key to meeting landowner objectives safely. Collaborative training efforts such as this one are essential if we wish to restore the process of fire to fire-dependent ecosystems that make up the majority of the American West. This unique opportunity allowed students to get invaluable real world experience in prescribed burning, putting into action concepts learned from many hours in the classroom. The CSU Student Association for Fire Ecology plans to make this training exchange an annual event, training tomorrow's leaders in the prescribed fire and land management community.
Mixers in Montana
A new SAFE chapter was established in 2011 at the University of Montana when a group of students decided to revive the lapsed "Fire Club" and formally affiliate with AFE. Chapter activities included prescribed burning with the Lolo National Forest, a visit to the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab and member participation in the University's winter session Prescribed Fire Practicum, held in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy of GA. However, one of the most successful activities was also the most informal - the occasional mixers held at a local watering hole that drew together students, researchers, managers and career firefighters to quench their thirst and shoot the breeze.
Students were surveyed beforehand regarding whom they would like to meet, and invitations were extended to ensure a wide variety of professions and interests were represented. Missoula is at a unique crossroads where multiple agencies at all levels (county, state, federal) participate in all aspects of fire (pure and applied research, management for suppression and resource benefit, and wildland firefighters in all guises). In a single evening, a student might have the opportunity to talk to a smokejumper, a state DNRC dispatcher and a Fire Sciences Lab researcher.
Feedback from all participants was very positive. The students appreciated the opportunity to meet a diverse array of professionals, discover new career options and talk candidly about the pros and cons of different roles in fire. The professionals were excited to share their experiences, get to know the next generation of professionals, and impart advice. This was networking at its best - genuine, low key and actually fun.
SAFE is working to arrange a similar event at the Fire Congress this December in Portland, OR. If you are interested in participating and have a specific career/focus area you would like to see represented by a professional, please email SAFE at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy Baker, president of the University of Florida SAFE chapter, was the recipient of the 2012 Society of American Foresters Florida Division Graduating Senior Award. His involvement with SAFE was one of the ways he demonstrated the positive attitude and leadership skills the award recognizes.
Chapter Activities Update
During the Spring 2012 semester, SAFE chapters nationwide supported a variety of state, local, and federal agencies in conducting more than 3800 acres of prescribed fires. These activities supported the goals of the agencies and provided valuable on-the-job training for SAFE members. SAFE also provided over 130 hours of fire training to student members.
Please let us know what your chapter has been up to! We would love to hear about prescribed fire experience (both acreage tallies and narratives), unique chapter activities (your chapter's "highlight") and anything other news of note. On a more prosaic level, we are trying to collect chapter contact information including officer names, chapter website/facebook/twitter address to link to on the SAFE webpage, and any additions or deletions to your chapter's member list. Thanks!