If you Google “TREX”, you see plenty about the flesh-eating dinosaur T-Rex, as well as composite decking materials, but little about The Nature Conservancy’s prescribed fire training exchange, also called TREX…and this TREX is worth knowing about.

The 2nd annual Ashland TREX begins May 1 and brings together firefighters (including three “bomberos”, or firefighters, from Ashland’s Sister City of Guanajuato), students, scientists, and land managers for a two-week intensive experience housed at Southern Oregon University. The program provides opportunities during controlled burn operations in the hills above Ashland for formal training and sharing, from the least experienced student to the most advanced “burn boss.”

So why do we need to burn?

The forests surrounding Ashland provide life-sustaining drinking water, clean air, recreation, and the setting for Ashland’s highly desirable quality of life and tourism economy. Home to diverse wildlife and plant species, our forests are carbon storage banks that help ameliorate climate change. These same forests were shaped for millennia by frequent fires that cleansed and maintained them. The recent absence of fire has created unnaturally dense forests and put our water supply, economy, and community at high risk from severe, uncharacteristic wildfire.

Through the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project, Ashland has chosen a proactive path, nursing our forests back to health and restoring frequent fire that sustains biodiversity, community resilience, and increases firefighter safety. Bringing back mild fire will eventually keep wildfire in check through controlled burns set in the cool seasons by teams of fire professionals who follow comprehensive plans with safety as the first priority. As smoke can be an issue for some members of our community, we strictly follow smoke management regulations, only burning on days with an optimum chance of smoke moving away from our community.

Uncontrolled fire and smoke will always be part of our lives in Southern Oregon. Both will continue and are predicted to increase if climate change worsens. However, we can choose our fire and smoke by responsibly stewarding our forests and bringing back mild fire. We ask for your tolerance of small amounts of passing smoke this spring for the greater good of our community and forest. And keep your eyes out for the Ashland TREX!

See ashlandwatershed.org for more information. See smoke? Call 541-552-2490 for burn information and receive alerts by texting WATERSHED to 31279.

The Alarm Box, a column with local public safety information, appears triweekly in the Tidings. Chris Chambers is a division chief/fire marshal with Ashland Fire & Rescue. Email topic suggestions to margueritte.hickman@ashland.or.us.