PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (May 24, 2022) – The Presidio of Monterey and Camp Roberts fire departments successfully teamed up with other agencies to hold the first in a series of multi-agency prescribed burns at Camp Roberts, Calif., May 4.
The team burned a 77-acre area on the installation to reduce the risk of wildfires, improve the area’s ecology and enhance safety, said Fire Prevention Chief Cory Prough of the PoM Fire Department. Camp Roberts is about 100 miles south of the Presidio in San Miguel and part of it falls under the command of U.S. Army Garrison PoM.
The Camp Roberts Fire Department did the lion’s share of the coordination with agencies that included the San Luis Obispo County Fire Department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Five Cities Fire Authority and the Ventana Hotshots, a U.S. Forest Service crew from the Los Padres National Forest, Prough said.
Prescribed burns, held in accordance with environmental and public resource codes, are an effective way to diminish fuels such as grasses and bushes that can cause wildfires to burn out of control, Prough said.
“Fire is going to happen, but everything that we can do on the front end before it gets there is going to help save lives and protect property,” Prough said.
Fire Prevention Officer Matthew Read of the PoM Fire Department, who worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 12 years and has an extensive background in fighting wildland urban interface fires, played a key role in the prescribed burn, Prough said.
The Camp Roberts Fire Department has conducted several prescribed burns at Camp Roberts, but this was the first coordinated effort within a designated area on Camp Roberts, said Read, who has worked for the PoM Fire Department for five years.
“This particular unit or area that we burned was identified as the highest threat based on common wind direction and fuel loading,” Read said. “This was just a small piece of the pie. The idea is that over the course of the next few years, we’ll complete an entire circle.”
When fire officials reach the end of the circle over the course of the next few years, they plan to start over again, Read said.
Read said Camp Roberts fire officials paid close attention to the weather and identified the perfect day for the burn.
“Everything was in our favor,” Read said. “A cold front had passed through a couple of days prior, so it gave just enough moisture to the vegetation that it wasn’t going to cause too much of an issue, but it was still dry enough that we could get the fire to consume the vegetation.”
Atmospheric lift also got the smoke up and out of the way, Read said.
It is important to note that prescribed burns not only have safety benefits but ecological benefits as well, Read said.
For example, prescribed burns open seed pods and reintroduce nutrients to the soil to help the next generation of native vegetation grow, Read said. This helps the soil hold moisture better and become more fire resistant.
The PoM Fire Prevention Division’s participation in the prescribed burn was just one part of the team’s efforts to prevent fire in the area, Prough and Read said.
Through the Wildland Fire Management Working Group, they have coordinated with local organizations such as the City of Monterey Fire Department and The Parks at Monterey Bay to reopen a fire road at La Mesa Village, Read said.
The division has also coordinated to manage potential fire fuels at the Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve and the Ord Military Community, Read said.
“In general, a healthy forest is a fire resistant forest, and so that’s something that we’re always striving for, to protect the land so that we can return it to a natural state as much as possible,” Read said.
The division also holds many educational events in the community, such as fire extinguisher training. In addition, the division has a 27-foot-long Fire Safety and Prevention Trailer that provides hands-on training with home fire safety.
Organizations interested in scheduling fire safety training can contact Prough at (831) 242-7544.