Photo: Land Trust.

Prescribed Burn Training Attended by Land Trust Staff

Jun 05, 2024 by Jana Hemphill
The Land Trust recently had two staff members that were selected to participate in this year’s Central Oregon Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (COTREX).

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The Land Trust recently had two staff members that were selected to participate in this year’s Central Oregon Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (COTREX). This program helped stewardship associates Peter Cooper and Gabriel Juarez learn, practice, and share experiences related to prescribed fire. This included learning about the local ecology of fire-adapted forests in Central Oregon, as well as participating in prescribed burns—from scouting and preparation to ignitions, mop-up, and patrol. In addition, Peter and Gabriel received their National Wildlife Coordinating Group Firefighter 2 certification (also known as a red card).

During COTREX, Gabriel and Peter were able to participate in four prescribed burns, ranging from several acres up to 280 acres. These prescribed burns occurred on Deschutes National Forest lands.

We asked Peter and Gabriel to tell us a little bit more about their experiences participating in COTREX.


1. Why did you want to attend COTREX?

Peter: I wanted to attend COTREX because I was eager to learn more about fire and forest ecology and then take that knowledge into the implementation of forest restoration projects on Land Trust properties. It was also a great opportunity to get some live fire and burn operation experience so that the Land Trust could have staff with red cards and the qualifications necessary to participate in future cross boundary prescribed burns. 

Gabriel: I wanted to attend COTREX to develop a deeper understanding of how fire plays a crucial role in the health, resiliency, and restoration of fire-adapted ecosystems, particularly in the high desert of Central Oregon. I also felt that it was important to gain real on-the-ground fire experience, so there can be staff prepared to use fire as a restoration tool on Deschutes Land Trust Preserves in the future. 


2. What was your favorite part of COTREX?

Gabriel: My favorite part was having the opportunity to network amongst some extremely knowledgeable and friendly professionals from other state and federal agencies who work with fire on a daily basis. 

Peter: My favorite part was getting to know and network with people from various agencies and organizations across Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, including the Warm Springs Wildland Fire Module, Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Washington Department of Natural Resources. It was a great opportunity for people coming from very different backgrounds and eco-regions to learn and burn together as a unit. 


3. What was the most interesting thing you learned?

Peter: The most interesting thing I learned was that before fire suppression and logging, most of our dry pine forests in the areas around Central Oregon had a fire return interval of approximately every 10-15 years. Those frequent low-intensity fires were what ponderosa pine adapted to thrive in, and there is a lot of work needed to reset the clock for the past 100+ years of forest management decisions. 

Gabriel: One of the most interesting things I learned was how different fuels, i.e. grass, downed logs, shrubs, etc that are available on a burn unit impact overall burn objectives and influence ignition patterns and strategies. 


4. Can you share a fun fire fact?

Gabriel: Native bunchgrass stands like Idaho fescue respond favorably to low-intensity fires because old dead foliage burns off and new growth is encouraged. 

Peter: Low-intensity fire increases resin production in ponderosa pine that in turn increases their defense against bark beetle and other insect attacks. 


Check out this video of Peter's and Gabriel's experiences with COTREX!


The Land Trust looks forward to utilizing Gabriel's and Peter's new skills this fall during a prescribed burn at the Metolius Preserve. Stay tuned!


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