Fire Protocols: Attention as Autopoietic Space Blog [PIG]

  1. What did you accomplish last week?

-Onboarding
-Got to meet our new community of protocol study!
-Hosted a successful 52-acre burn at the School for Inclement Weather with a diverse group of stakeholders and partners from different cultural backgrounds and diverse relationship to fire protocol. First seasonal case study for our research.

  1. What do you plan to do next week?
    -Determine 3rd jury member
    -Design/refine interview questions
    -Refine list of interviewees and begin scheduling interviews

  2. What (if anything) is blocking your progress?

  • I wouldn’t say anything is blocking us, just the natural fledgling process of beginning and finding our feet, calendaring / getting into our rhythm for meetings, protecting our time and focusing attention.
  1. Fun insight/tidbit, link, or idea?
    A reflection from the burn we hosted a few days ago:
    fire is a kairotic practice - a study of the right time - when temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, fine dead fuel moisture, soil moisture, probability of ignition, good lift and dispersal of smoke, availability of trained community and water resources, recovery of humidity at night, and much else all align together to allow for the land to burn in the way it is seeking.

(Choosing a day to burn is a matter of consulting the oracle just as much as it is consulting the weather forecast)

Lighting a fire in the wake of colonial disaster requires deep alignment with kairos. The Kashia Pomo burning that has happened here for so many centuries transformed by Old-growth clear cut → climate collapse —> thick tanoak resprout —> fire suppression —> Sudden Oak Death —> bomb cyclone has created a scenario where fire needs to be held in a very specific way. the ravines are suffocated with fallen trees - too soft and the fire wont do anything besides remove the fine fuels. Too hot and the fire will burn up everything including the second growth redwoods and push against our containment lines.

kairos means just the right conditions so that the fire burns up the heavier fuels below the canopy / leaves smoldering logs in contact with the earth, new bacteria to fight sudden oak death, while letting the mature trees stay green above the flames and the perimeters stay where they are. The immense and vital tension is that fire in these deeply damaged places often requires a style of militancy that is unromantic and uncomfortable for many. It requires squads and chain of command, chainsaws, heavy machinery, maps and firing sequence. It also requires prayer, permission, tribal partnership, years of observation, local knowledge of weather, of history, readiness to sit with the impact. It also requires burn plans, Calfire permits, air quality permits, liability release, financing…

I’m curious about that kairos especially - the alignment between weather, fuel, topography, cultural practice, militancy, bureaucracy and heart.

This 52 acre burn held some of the most beautiful fire effects I’ve gotten to participate in. A terra-forming event for this land on a long healing journey.

Jiordi was the Burn Boss (trainee) and evaluated by Sasha Berleman (Federal Burn Boss). Overall the evaluation went really well and will be submitted to the State Fire Marshall in June with a written report.

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Very cool to see this work in pictures and feel the ways in which your project “rhymes” with ours in some very big ways, in terms of observation, historical analysis, environmental change, etc. We’ve been trying to focus our work more in this shaping phase, and I think we’re asking similar questions as I see in your original proposal, about how to think about the generality of protocols alongside the specificity of local conditions and stakeholders.

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Hi Celeste! Looking forward to learning more about/with your work and excited to rhyme and find companionship in some of these inquiries. As we start to deepen the questions I’d love to get together and share some of our perspectives

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Update:

  • This past week we also started drafting the list of interviewees and interview questions for this first phase of the research, as well as refining our scope and methodology
  • Here’s a list of references we’re using for writing. We will continue to update/add in as we move forward.

WEEK 2

  1. What did you accomplish last week?
    a. Literature Review: We continued to work on our list of resources, and Nathalia started drafting insights from Prometheus Remorce, Funny Weather, Delirious New York, articles about controlled burns in Brazil, as well as indigenous texts/conversations about the Guarani people’s relationship to fire.
    b. Prescribed Burn Protocols: Analysis of current materials available through the Prescribed Burn Association, TERA, Humboldt County PB Manual, and others. We started categorizing the information available while observing possible missing elements.
    c. Roadmap and Scope: we continued to adjust the roadmap created last week, realizing that burn protocols can change a lot depending on the region. It’s feeling wise to focus on the Sonoma County ecosystem rather than California. We also discussed different formats and approaches we want to focus on when creating our research deliverables.
    d. Sonoma County: continued to draft insights from the burn Jiordi managed last week, and Jiordi attended and co-hosted a meeting with the Good Fire Alliance.
    e. Maps: started looking at tools and scope of the map we want to create.

  2. What do you plan to do next week?
    a. Scheduling interviews with Sonoma County stakeholders
    b. Continue literature review and analysis of current burn protocols, the pyrocene, and anthropology/art/philosophy/ancient texts about fire
    c. Continue writing about the pyrocene and the different ontologies and historical context affecting the current fire ecologies
    d. Preparation for a second burn at the School For Inclement Weather

  3. Fun insight/tidbit, link, or idea?

    I (Nathalia) attended a symposium about native languages in Brazil, and had the opportunity to learn more about the Guarani people’s fire ontology. Some of my favorite stories were about the memory of fire:

    • Fire as messenger and memory

    “We leave messages within the fire” one of them said. The concept of relating to the memory of fire is traced back to the ancient Peabiru trails, a network of paths used by indigenous peoples, including the Guarani, that connected various parts of South America, from the Atlantic coast of Brazil to the Andes and beyond into Peru. These trails were vital for trade, communication, and cultural exchange. One of the ways in which fire was mentioned is as a guide and a provider of orientation. When getting lost, someone would light a fire and ask it for directions, which would be “housed” in the fire over time as messages and wisdom left from those who had already crossed the trail.

    • Continuous fire

    Some Guarani communities have a continuous fire burning in their aldeias at all times. The continuous fire, often referred to as the sacred fire, symbolizes an eternal connection to the spiritual world and ancestors. It is believed that the fire serves as a bridge between the physical world and the spiritual realm, where the spirits of ancestors reside. Keeping the fire burning is a way to honor and maintain a link with these ancestral spirits, and to preserve cultural identity and continuity.

    I’m keen to continue to look at different fire ontologies and how they might inform the way Jiordi and I are surrounding the question of “how to listen to the weather”. I’m especially intrigued about what perspectives we might unearth around the role of orientation in protocols, and how that might add different tones to my previous work in web3 as well. Which inevitably reminds me of Kei Kreutler’s SoP research from last year (and her upcoming book) — I think it would be valuable to connect at some point.

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WEEK 3

  1. What did you accomplish last week?

Jiordi attended the CA Prescribed Burn Association Leadership Retreat in Hopland, CA where he met with many of the leaders of prescribed fire in CA including the Calfire Staff Chief of prescribed fire in the whole state (top of the top…). topics included examining statewide coordination between groups, geodatabase results of prescibed fire in CA over the last 5 years, relationships with gov agencies, relationships between tribal and non-tribal entities, failures of the past 5 years and developments of insurance and liability for prescribed fire.

Jiordi shared about the SoP project in smaller groups and conversations and got to receive feedback from a lot of different people of different backgrounds. He identified and reached out specifically to a few stakeholders to ask if they would be up for a future interview specific to answering questions for our research - to take place in the next month.

Nathalia continues literature reviews

  1. **What do you plan to do next week?

Another burn at the School for Inclement Weather with the following orgs - Fire Forward, CA State Parks, Kashia Pomo Cultural Dept.

Continue Literature Reviews

  1. Fun insight/tidbit, link, or idea?
    Using this fuel mapper technology we learned that the School for Inclement Weather is in especially hazardous fire conditions relative to the region surrounding it. The lidar mapping took place in 2016 (lidar is used to determing ladder fuels, fuel density, fuel type, vegetation type, etc). This means that all of the burning we’ve been doing out here has happened since the last fly-over, so when the next Lidar fly-over happens we’ll have a really great comparison to see how the work we’ve been doing has changed the hazard level out here.
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WEEK 4

  1. what did you accomplish last week?

We hosted our final prescribed fire at SFIW for the season. Actually this is post-season… the burn was planned for what turned out to be a heat-wave in CA. though we were still techincally in “prescription” - the conditions were too hot. This allowed us to reach out to our local air pollution control office and get permission to conduct a night burn. Night burns are extremely rare because of the inversion that happens in PM hours, smoke is less able to rise and dissipate and so nearby communites get smoked out. However, SFIW is deep in the coastal range and there are no smoke sensitive communites to the east of us where wind was blowing. Burning at night extends the burn window to include more of summer because you can get away with dry conditions due to the higher humidity levels at night and cooler temp, so fire behavior is gentler. Kashia cultural dept. wasn’t able to join but we were accompanied by Fire Forward, CA State Parks, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Good Fire Alliance.

We lit the test fire around 6:30 PM and ended ignitions at midnight. The fire started out burning really hot and torching up trees, so we slowed ignitions way down so fire could back down the hill instead of run up it. Conditions got more ideal after sunset once humidity levels came up. I stayed up on patrol with small group until 6am - by the time dawn broke and birds started singing I was completely altered.

Midway through the ignitions we uncovered a failed protocol in the emergency comms in the county. Even though we had made all the necessary registrations and calls to Calfire, Redcom, air quality - some comm did not happen on the backend of dispatch (not our fault) and a wildfire was declared by Sonoma Dispatch. for 12 long minutes about 10 engines, 2 dozer crews and 2 hand crews (about 80 people total) were mobilized in emergency fashion and converging on SFIW ready to fight a vegetation fire in super steep terrain (which wouldn’t have gone well at all… they would have needed to call in air support). Fortunately for everyone there was no wildfire. they were corrected and turned back. Good training opportunity? I spoke to the battalion chief the next day and he relayed to me that on a conference call with Calfire overhead that morning the incident came up, and they are improving their protocol so that an additional communication takes place between agencies for all prescribed burns, so this doesn’t happen again. So we improved state prescribed fire protocol :slight_smile:

  1. what do you plan to do next week?
    Patrol the burn as stumps burn down
    Nathalia arrives to SFIW
    cont literature review
    prep for EE

  2. Fun insight/tidbit, link, or idea?

Nathalia:
Jiordi and I have been reflecting on the importance of time scale and perspective in relation to this work of prescribed burns. In times of urgency, perhaps people might not have the space or capacity to reflect and situate this work both within a historical context and a larger-scale scope of what and how this work might be important. How might orienting through a longer time scale be relevant to work that is considered urgent? How can protocol support a praxis of navigating complexity and asking better questions, instead of a default of assumed certainty?

How can protocol serve as scaffolding to orientations that are grounded in context?

How can protocols help ground humans toward a quality of attention that supports their decision-making and navigation of complex systems? Does the difference between protocol and ritual become more apparent when we look through longer-term implications and externalities?

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This is a fascinating update on many accounts. I love thinking about the act of burning - the science, the bureaucracy, the listening, and the ritual all mixing with the opportunity to change the landscape and yourself. Considering how many groups communicate and coordinate sounds quite complex. Do these groups have aligned or desperate goals?