Cultural Grassland Burn at Pepperwood + Photo Gallery

From left to right: Clint McKay (Wappo, Pomo, and Wintun, Clint is Pepperwood’s Indigenous Education Coordinator and the Chair of Pepperwood’s Native Advisory Council), Devyn Friedfel (Pepperwood’s Assistant Preserve Manager, training to become a certified California Burn Boss), Sasha Berleman (Director of Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Fire Forward program and certified California Burn Boss), Michael Gillogly (Pepperwood’s Preserve Manager). Photo credit Ian A. Nelson

The Pepperwood Native Advisory Council, the Sonoma County Good Fire Alliance and our land stewardship team launched a cooperative, 27-acre intentional burn to benefit the health of our grasslands this past Monday, June 13. The weather and logistical conditions were ideal, and the sense of community around this event was soul-filling.

Devyn Friedfel, Assistant Preserve Manager at Pepperwood, developed the burn plan as part of his practical completion of the California State Certification for becoming a Prescribed Fire Burn Boss. But on several levels, this burn was no ordinary prescribed burn. Devyn wrote the burn plan and collaborated with Pepperwood’s Native Advisory Council, chaired by Clint McKay (Wappo, Pomo, Wintun), to bring cultural burning back to this landscape.

In a profound moment in history, western and Indigenous science informed our stewardship resulting in the continuation of our shared goal of re-introducing “good” fire to this land and ensuring ecosystem health and subsequently improving our overall resilience in the face of climate change and wildfires. We have enormous gratitude for Clint and Lucy McKay and their family, as well as the Native Advisory Council.

We were incredibly grateful for Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) and the Good Fire Alliance volunteers, as well as the director of ACR’s Fire Forward program, Sasha Berleman. What an amazing team! We are so fortunate to have such an organization right here in Sonoma County. A very special thank you to Sonoma County Fire, Sonoma Valley Fire, Northern Sonoma County Fire District and Avalon Fire for providing engines and crew. Nate Glaeser, Batallion Chief for Cal Fire, was also an essential partner. Last but not least, thank you to Pepperwood’s Team, without whom we could not have carried out this intentional burn. You can view the timelapse of the fire below.

All prescribed burning (sometimes called controlled or intentional) at Pepperwood, including partnerships with our Native Advisory Council to restore cultural burning, are conducted in compliance with our CalFire Vegetation Management Plan, and any applicable local, state, or federal safety requirements.

View the Photo Gallery Below

With enormous gratitude for Ian A. Nelson, who provided the photography for this gallery.

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