California's New Certified Burn Boss Certification Travel Grant

Project Overview

Project Type: Enhanced State Grants
Funds awarded in 2020: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G347-20-W7904
Grant Recipient: University of California Cooperative Extension
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Jeffrey Stackhouse
University of California Cooperative Extension


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: participatory research, technical assistance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: wildlife
  • Pest Management: flame, weed ecology
  • Sustainable Communities: urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    Prescribed fire is well recognized as a cost-effective and uniquely beneficial land management tool, with utility for range management, ecological restoration, fuels reduction, wildlife habitat enhancement, and more. In California, most prescribed burning happens on federal lands, and private lands burning is largely planned and overseen by CAL FIRE through their Vegetation Management Program (VMP). After decades of decline, the VMP is now expanding, and CAL FIRE has made major investments to meet their statewide prescribed fire goals. Nonetheless, this state program alone cannot meet the demand from landowners, which has created a training need for private landowners to meet CAL FIRE requirements to lead community-based burns on private lands under shared liability with CAL FIRE to reduce this bottleneck (as required by SB1260). California Senate Bill 1260 recently mandated CAL FIRE to create a state certified burner program by 2020, but the main limitation is that only graduates of the first state certified burn boss course can teach subsequent courses, creating an immediate bottleneck in the availability of the course. For this project, we propose providing travel scholarships geared toward professionals within CAL FIRE, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cooperative Extension, agriculturalists, and other organizations that work extensively with prescribed fire to empower them as statewide leaders to lead state certified burner courses across the state. This grant would be modeled after PDP travel scholarships to conferences, but would include the option for extra travel funds for those applicants to organize workshops in their own counties (if desired).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The challenge in our work as extension professionals is to nurture the next generation of great prescribed fire practitioners, using a fine balance of inspiration, training and regulation to get where we need to go. This certified burner program is a huge opportunity to change the norm in California, but there are bottlenecks that must be widened to make change beyond lofty agency goals.

    Through this Enhanced State PDP Project, we hope to build capacity for resource management-driven prescribed fire on private lands in California. Specifically, we plan to:

    • In collaboration with the target agencies and nonprofit groups (CAL FIRE, NRCS, Cooperative Extension, California Deer Association, California Cattlemen’s Association, and especially the California Prescribed Burn Association), continue developing a list of current prescribed fire practitioners that have the interest and drive to be community leaders/educators in their regions.
    • Recruit a cadre from the first California certified burn boss graduation list to lead the second state certified burner class (with the list of strategically identified individuals aforementioned from partner agencies/groups) in partnership with the principal investigators. Cadre members will have expertise in range management, fuels management, and fire behavior, and have familiarity with programs and policies that enable prescribed fire on private lands.
    • Provide the opportunity for additional travel funds to individuals, either from the first or second graduating class, to serve as instructors for more locally-coordinated efforts within their communities across the state to create a third cohort of certified burners.

    Use this project as a pilot to explore future opportunities and models of seed funding for trainings across the state for the certified burn boss program.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.