Prescribed Fire & Hand Crews & Contract Counties

Department: CAL FIRE

Program Description: Restoring ecological fire is one of the fundamental pillars of California’s wildfire resilience strategy. CAL FIRE has established dedicated fuel reduction and prescribed fire crews to increase the amount of prescribed fire on the landscape. CAL FIRE leverages additional private and government crews as available to enable prescribed fires to be a more dominant tool for fuel reduction.

Program Impact: In June of 2018 CAL FIRE received funding for six Fuels Reduction Crews dedicated to prescribed fire and fuels management. Governor Newsom’s budget increased the program to 10 full-time Fuel Reduction Crews.

Fuel Reduction Crews are CAL FIRE region resources and interface directly with localized personnel on fuels reduction projects. They focus on hazardous fuels reduction techniques including prescribed burns, hand and mechanical fuel reduction, fire planning, and fire prevention education with an emphasis on improving public health and safety while reducing wildfire potential to California communities and forests.

Resilience in Action:

  • In 2022, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department completed more than1,000 acres of fuel reduction with these resources. This was accomplished on three projects including 969 acres of broadcast burning on the Spaulding-Midland VMP, 30 acres of right-of-way clearance on the Alisal Road Project, and 12 acres of pile burning on the Painted Cave Community Defensible Space Project.
  • The Spaulding-Midland VMP Project utilized prescribed fire to reduce the age class of the vegetation and remove heavy ground fuels associated with drought stressed Oak Woodland. This project located in the foothills below the Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area will help to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire that would affect Midland School, the adjacent Los Padres National Forest, and the residential community of Woodstock Estates. The treatment will also use the ecological benefits of fire to improve forest health in the area.
  • The Alisal Road Project consists of four miles of roadside hazardous fuel reduction along Alisal Road. This road provides critical access/egress for multiple homes and properties located in SRA lands near the City of Solvang. Vegetation was selectively hand cut and chipped up to 20 feet on both sides of the road. Flammable chaparral was removed, flashy fuels were weed whacked, and trees were limbed up with ladder fuels removed. Overhanging branches were removed to increase access for tall vehicles. Dead trees were removed that were close to the roadway. Work was performed by hand crews using chainsaws, weed whackers, and chippers.
  • The Painted Cave Community Defensible Space Project included multiple fuel reduction treatments surrounding the small community of Painted Cave. The Direct Award funding was used to complete 12 acres of pile burning on the Painted Cave South Fuel Break treatment. This WUI fuel break protects more than 100 homes by providing additional separation from dense chaparral fuels beyond the minimum defensible space requirements.

The Williams Ranch fuel reduction project in Shasta County was initially developed in 2020 to treat approximately 4,480 acres over a 10-year period. This project aims to reduce fuels and reintroduce fire back into the local ecosystem. This project includes manual fuels reduction and prescribed fire to meet several objectives including the reduction of catastrophic wildfire, increasing available water yield and returning native plant species to the area. The Shasta Trinity CAL FIRE unit, along with Fuels Reduction Crews, treated 130 acres as preparations for a prescribed burn that treated approximately 1,500 acres in 2022.