The California Prescribed Fire Monitoring Program (CPFMP) is a collaboration between CalFire and the University of California, Davis created to collect data and conduct analyses on the effectiveness and effects of managed fire and to serve as a repository of information that will help answer these questions. In this partnership, CalFire and UC-Davis work together to establish a network of permanent monitoring plots in a variety of ecosystem types where fire is applied to meet a range of management objectives. With field crews collecting pre- and post-burn data, CPFMP scientists analyze the results across ecosystem types and burn conditions to provide managers with information that will help measure management effects and effectiveness and calibrate burn expectations, and in turn be used to set realistic long-term planning goals.

CPFMP encompasses over 38 sites (994 plots) across the state on lands managed by more than 15 entities, including federal, state, and local agencies, universities, NGOs, and private landowners. Plots in each site are sampled before, during the burn, and after at different times. With such a database, CPFMP can play an essential role in building credibility around prescribed fire capacity and efficacy for large-scale managed fire programs.

Goals and Objectives
The main goals of the CPFMP are to:
• Provide the scientific foundation for best practices in prescribed fire planning and implementation in California
• Develop a monitoring framework and protocols that fill the missing link in the adaptive management cycle and provide field-level feedback to strategic efforts to safeguard carbon stocks and other ecosystem services, promote ecosystem resilience, and enhance adaptive capacity in California ecosystems

The main objectives:
1. Monitor prescribed fire treatment effectiveness, measured as reduction of fuel loading and continuity, and reductions in flame length and spread rate.
2. Monitor prescribed fire treatment effects, measured as changes in aboveground carbon, tree mortality and damage, soil surface conditions, understory plant species, and other variables as determined. Continue monitoring of selected sites for a number of years after treatment.
3. Carry out inventory and monitoring of areas that have been previously prescribe burned > 2 times in the recent past, in order to develop a database of ecosystem conditions, effects, and dynamics that result from the institution of frequent burning.
4. Carry out project reporting and outreach throughout the year, including annual reports, project reports, peer-reviewed and popular literature, field and office workshops with fire and vegetation managers, webinars and lectures, and interactions with prescribed fire crews.

Accomplishments and Outcomes
During the 5 years of the program, major accomplishments have been:
• Monitoring completed or underway at ~50 project sites, in 150 burn units on more than 10,000 total acres, in several California counties
• Collaborative monitoring with 15 partner organizations, including:
US Forest Service
California State Parks
The Nature Conservancy
Southern California Edison Company
Eldorado Irrigation District
Fire Forward
Numerous Resource Conservation Districts


-Safford, H.D., Grupenhoff, A., Williams, J.N., Putz, T., Restaino, J. 2023. Measuring success: Monitoring program assesses benefits of prescribed burning. Wildfire Magazine Qrtr 1: 14-23

-Williams, J.N., Quinn-Davidson, L., Safford, H.D., Grupenhoff, A., Middleton, B.E., Restaino, J., Smith, E., Adlam, C. , Rivera-Huerta, H. 2023. Overcoming barriers to prescribed fire in the North American Mediterranean Climate Zone. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment: doi:10.1002/fee.2687

-Grupenhoff, A., et al. First entry prescribed fire has greatest effects on surface fuels but limited effect in altering forest structure. (In prep.)


-Safford, H.D., A. Grupenhoff, J.N. Williams. 2021. California Prescribed Fire Monitoring Program: Report on the 2019 Springs Fire Resource Benefit Burn, Inyo National Forest.

Presentations and webinars

-Safford, H.D. November 19, 2020. Fuels management and forest restoration in the Sierra Nevada: the case for active forest management on the Valentine Reserve. Invited talk, University of California-Santa Barbara Natural Reserve System lecture series, virtual presentation.

-Safford, H.D. March 3, 2021. California fire trends and potential management responses. Invited talk, California State Parks annual meetings, virtual presentation.

-Safford, H.D. March 3, 2022. Wildfire risk reduction and postfire recovery in the Sierra Nevada. It is time to get serious. Keynote address, Sierra Nevada Conservancy Watershed Improvement Program annual summit, virtual presentation.

-Putz, T. December 7, 2023. California Prescribed Fire Monitoring Program: Partnerships to Measure the Effectiveness of Prescribed Fire. 10th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress

One postdoc and two PhD students supported.

Crew members trained in prescribed fire management and monitoring.