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Mendocino County Fire Safe Council

Ukiah, CA

https://firesafemendocino.org/

Prescribed/cultural burn accelerant and youth/focused population education specialist

 

Desired Skills/Traits:

  • Self-motivated, resourceful, open/able to read others.

  • Experience in in:

    • Fire science

    • Community organization

    • Social Media

  • Understanding all of the requirements, possible goals/how they affect plans, and how to design prescribed burns

  • Sensitivity to the many nuances related to cultural burn projects.

Openings: 1 of 1

fire safe 2.webp
Focus Area: Forestry/Fire

 Climate Mitigation & Adaptation, Ecological Forestry, Fire Preparedness & Management, Education & Outreach

project breakdown

Research

25%

Planning

15%

Implementation

20%

Education & Outreach

40%

Goals & Needs

 

MCFSC is a scrappy nonprofit focused on resource-poor, rural Mendocino County with a mission to “inform, empower, and mobilize residents to survive and thrive in a wildfire-prone environment.” It is a huge task, and we have a wide range of active projects for a Fellow to check out. MCFSC is the center of gravity for all things related to becoming wildfire-adapted in Mendocino. That involves a huge range of work like community management and education, running our own micro-grant program, managing large-scale fuel reduction projects, projects to improve environmental stewardship, implementing improved infrastructure such as emergency water supplies and access roads, managing social programs to help people unable to maintain their own properties, tackling legal issues such as the need for abatement enforcement, etc.

We will use this range to provide the most interesting breadth of experience we can and there will be a lot of room to design your own schedule. Still, a major focus will be on helping our all-volunteer Mendocino County Prescribed Burn Association (Mendo PBA) find ways to achieve consistent processes and deliver increased scale. Our Fellow will work with many interested landowners and delve into roadblocks and how we knock them down, the opportunities and resources we need to capitalize on them. Unless we can get back to a system of land management that includes thoughtful, well-planned burns around our population centers those communities will remain increasingly, traumatically, at risk. Developing school education presentations will be a secondary focus.

The day of a Fellow could involve working with landowners, the Mendo PBA, digging into regulations and burn history, networking with regulatory agencies or concerned grape growers, or testing out a presentation at a high school. A week might include a trip to a potential burn site or two, along with time assessing the burn potential of the site, landowner goals and how to build those into a burn plan, and developing a timeline and steps to overcome any obstacles. There might also be a class to assist with on a fire science field trip day while observing the process and working up ideas about how to compress mitigation messages into something that can be delivered effectively in a classroom. Any downtime might be devoted to diving into research about best practices for having wildfire mitigation information resonate with harder-to-reach communities.

Our Fellow will be living at the UC Hopland Research Extension Center (HREC), a beautiful opportunity in and of itself – heck, we’d like to be able to live there! It is a particularly appropriate location for this assignment since HREC was the location of a recent burn that ran into unexpected community opposition, which halted a plan for a number of additional burns. So, our Fellow will be living amid an opportunity to help assess how to improve burn projects. It will also be ideal because it is the location of school fire science education field trips that MCFSC is sponsoring that will be the springboard for the youth education component of the fellowship.

The work is about helping us chase down how to stay ahead of adapting to wildfire – given the complexities of land management, homeowners and business concerns, etc. It is as challenging as things get. If we don’t learn to live in our environment and stop the cycle of intensive burning and rebuilding (badly), we will continue to feed a very bad feedback cycle (for us). Our Fellow will have some key goals to meet, but also have the latitude to help us discover how to solve more significant problems. We need the help and are excited to meet you!

Capacity Building Projects

1) Prescribed Burn Accelerant

Landowners in Mendocino County are expressing increasing interest in incorporating prescribed burning as a land management tool and to reduce wildfire risk. Mendocino County is unlikely to achieve anything close to a wildfire-adapted state without a significant increase in planned burning around our populated areas. The Mendocino County Presecrbed Burn Association (Mendo PBA) is attempting to support the needed scaling-up of burning. However, the Mendo PBA leadership team is small, and the organization is 100% volunteer. So, the support they can provide interested landowners is minimal. The primary role of this fellowship will be to see how much the Mendo PBA can accelerate the number of burns delivered if they have dedicated help, available during normal business hours, to do things like:

  • review the requirements to plan a prescribed burn with interested landowners,

  • assist landowners in developing plans and answer questions,

  • follow up with landowners to check on their progress and any impediments they have encountered,

  • cultivate the PBA burn day volunteer baseline,

  • attend meetings to explain the prescribed burn process to interested members of the public,

  • develop streamlined guidelines for planning burns involving different types of land ownership,

  • document the number of landowners interested in hosting burns, how many are successful, what acreage is successfully burned, and what issues resulted in burns not being accomplished.

 

A related component of this project would be developing a way to systematize the collection of PBA data and burns in Mendocino County generally for reporting and to integrate with our Field Maps reporting of other fuel reduction and wildfire mitigation efforts.

To reduce wildfire risk significantly, over the long run, it will require reestablishing prescribed burning on a significant scale – far beyond what government agencies will be able to accomplish alone. PBAs, such as the Mendocino PBA, are key to the effort to help with the necessary scaling up of burning by private landowners. We believe the potential increase in acreage burned for the small requested investment may be significant.

2) Youth Education Specialist

MCFSC is interested in developing the content for and planning the delivery of age-appropriate wildfire safety training within Mendocino County Schools. However, our messaging is developed for land and/or homeowner populations. We need help developing new presentations and material that select core, age-appropriate messages and developing techniques to deliver them in an engaging manner with opportunities for student participation. Phase 2 of this project would be to arrange to deliver and test the material in area schools and refine it based on feedback received. Phase 3 would be to train interested community volunteers to be able to deliver the material throughout the county in future years.

3) Pocket Education Specialist

MCFSC hopes its Fellow will be able to do some research dives to help us develop better outreach material and techniques for reaching underserved populations in the county. As examples, we would like focused help to develop materials specifically useful for 1) populations in “city” areas of rural Mendocino County, i.e., rural areas that are not in the middle of the WUI but are endangered by their proximity to it, 2) minority populations in Mendocino County including Spanish language and tribal communities, 3) specific trades that could play a significant role in increasing wildfire readiness such as hardware store employees, contractors, architects, and real estate agents.

4) Other Fellow interests

MCFSC does a wide range of other projects, including hosting community events, managing our own grant program, working on policy/advocacy issues, managing large-scale fuel reduction projects, etc. We hope to offer our Fellow the opportunity to use a slice of their time to learn about and participate in whichever of these additional areas of our operation they are most excited about.

Organizational & Community Highlights

The MCFSC is a small, informal, highly flexible/adaptive non-profit tackling big issues and providing services to a large, diverse, resource-poor county. MCFSC has grown from being practically non existent in 2018-19 to being a significant service provider with a budget expected to near $2M in FY 23-24. (In Mendocino County, you can make a big difference quickly -- in a small pond, even an industrious minnow can be a big fish.) MCFSC provides an opportunity to be on the ground floor of a nonprofit, discovering how to maintain itself and deliver far beyond expectations. We accomplish a lot by being creative and by working with and through community partners as much as possible.

MCFSC’s informality mirrors the overall atmosphere of Mendocino County. Both are ornery and interesting places to be. Mendocino County is about 2 hours north of San Francisco, California, and has the official motto “wine, waves, and wilderness”. It is 2.2 million acres, larger than Delaware, with only 91,600 people, a beautiful rural community that incorporates a wide range of what nature has to offer, including the northern edge of wine county, chaparral and arid inland valleys, expansive oak woodlands, redwood forests, and Douglas-fir forests, and an entire coastal community with over 90 miles of amazing coastline. The population is quirky, with people as diverse as the landscape. There is a backbone of working class and agricultural workers mixing with a colorful blend of ranchers, back-to-the-land settlers from the 60s, loggers, marijuana growers, libertarians, monied “estate” grape growers, and others who follow their own drumbeat. A significant number of AmeriCorps members who have done a year here have chosen to stay a while.

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