Sonoma Ecology Center was part of a team that recently conducted emissions tests on three different methods of processing surplus forestry material: the conservation burn technique, a flame-cap kiln, and standard open burn piles. Funded by a grant from CAL FIRE awarded to the San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District, SEC worked with partners the Usal Redwood Forest Company, the USFS Fire Science Lab, and Washington State University, along with staff from Ground Culture, to conduct the testing using sophisticated measurement equipment.

The conservation burn and/or flame-cap kiln techniques have been demonstrated by Sonoma Ecology Center during trainings held throughout California since 2013. We continue to offer trainings in both methods for processing agricultural and forestry materials during burn season—generally late November through April 30th.

Project Sign

The conservation burn and flame-cap kilns visually reduce PM 2.5 small particulate pollution (smoke) and also produce biochar, a valuable form of stable, recalcitrant carbon. Biochar has been shown to be beneficial as an agricultural soil and compost amendment and for a growing number of industrial uses as a replacement for fossil-based ingredients.

Below is a photo of the setup in the Usal Forest, located in northern Mendocino County.

Ring of Fire Kiln Processing

The goals of the testing were to demonstrate differences in emissions (such as methane, C02, and dioxin) between the three methods and to determine, scientifically, whether producing biochar from surplus forestry bioresources and changing how open pile burns are conducted can reduce these pollutants and should therefore be considered best practices and recommended by air districts.

Project crew including staff from SEC, URFC, USFS Fire Science Lab, and Ground Culture.

Conservation burn pile with probe measuring C02 and PM 2.5.

A second round of testing, to be done at the Forest Service’s Fire Science Lab in Missoula, Montana, will be done in June 2024. The Lab will issue a report on the field testing in February and we will announce the results here so be sure to check back.

We want to thank CAL FIRE for this funding and all of our partners in this project!

Real-Time Monitoring by the Fire Science Lab



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