The Fire Program Director supports and guides Chapter programs to ensure the scientifically defensible execution of forest restoration and management throughout NC, with the goal of increasing resilience of forest ecosystems in the face of climate change. This position provides oversight and technical support to TNC fire operations in North Carolina, ensuring adherence to the highest for safety and mitigation of risk, while achieving ecological outcomes. The NC burn season is year-round with a peak burn season between January and May, and the program accomplishes an average of 130 burns per year on 38,000 acres. Most burns are conducted in coastal plain longleaf pine systems and pine-oak forests in the Southern Blue Ridge. For most of the annual acreage burned, TNC is assisting partner agencies. TNC staff from across the state may lead or assist with burns in 3-5 locations on the same day, including in neighboring states, and often share crews with state partners. Permanent TNC fire staff are based in 5 locations across the state and an additional 50 seasonal fire staff are hired in support of our programs throughout the year. The Fire Program Director has oversight of fire qualifications and fire implementation but does not have direct supervisory responsibilities.
The Fire Program Director approves Site Fire Management Plans and Prescribed Burn Unit Plans, and modifies or exempts specific fire management requirements as defined in TNC’s Fire Management Manual. They mentor, evaluate and designates burn bosses, in writing, with notification to the Fire Management Coordinator; certifies task books, including RxB2; conducts or assists with training at local and national levels; and ensures that TNC’s fire guidelines and requirements are met or exceeded. They have the authority to temporarily suspend fire management program operations because of safety concerns or non-compliance with TNC standards. They provide technical and scientific support to fire planners and burn bosses, reviews proposed contracts and staff qualifications for prescribed fire operations and provides input to TNC legal counsel on fire policy. They may teach fire training classes with NC fire partners. They keep current on internal and external developments and trends in the field of wildland fire management and keeps abreast of new burn techniques and equipment to enhance skills and maintain/grow fire credentials of TNC staff. This may include participation in wildland fire suppression activities with external partners. To maintain excellence in their program, they build strong partnerships with public and private partners to further the goals of TNC, and keeps senior leadership in their area informed of fire program activities, needs, risks and accomplishments.
The Fire Program Director ensures that the best available science guides our forest restoration work and conservation strategies, with an emphasis on building resilience in natural communities, thus allowing them to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem function in a changing climate. They assist in developing and implementing relevant strategies as part of the chapter’s Conservation Steering Committee. They pursue grants and private donations to support the fire program and manages relevant grants and contracts. They are a member of the Southern Blue Ridge and Longleaf Whole Systems teams and connects chapter work to TNC’s North America Living with Fire strategy. They serve as the principle contact to government agencies, other conservation organizations, and the academic community on fire issues. The position will build on a history of local collaboration as well as the support of national networks such as the Fire Learning Network. They play a guiding role in the Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network and represents TNC on the NC Prescribed Fire Council, the NC Fire Environment Committee, and TNC’s Fire Management Advisory team.
We prefer that this position is based in Durham, North Carolina by early fall 2021. Because of COVID, initial work may need to be conducted from a home office and in the field, until TNC guidance allows office work, likely in late summer of 2021.
The Fire Program Director establishes TNC as a major conservation partner within the fire management community and leads in defining conservation priorities and long-term conservation strategies. They develop key partnerships with public and private organizations to identify and resolve technical issues and to widely communicate solutions and best practices. They engage local community support for local conservation efforts, and negotiates complex and innovative solutions with government agencies and landowners to conserve and protect natural communities. They develop innovative scientific methods, analyses, tools and frameworks to manage natural systems to build resilience in the face of climate change.
RESPONSIBILITIES AND SCOPE
Oversees the NC burn program with an average of 130 burns per year on TNC preserves and partner lands. Within NC there are 5 burn bosses (RXB2 or RXB3), 18 fire-trained regular staff with fire as a component of their job, and 50 seasonal fire staff hired annually by field staff.
Reviews and approves burn plans, supports day-to-day burn planning and operations, and provides fire personnel training and development.
Plays a prominent role in facilitating the Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network for TNC, with 8 project areas in the mountains of NC, SC, GA and TN.
Manages grants, e.g. USFS Region 8 funds that support fire crew modules based in NC, GA and KY/TN.
Advises TNC supervisors on the performance management, training, and career development of fire staff.
Represents TNC on the NC Prescribed Fire Council and the NC Fire Environment Committee.
Builds relationships with external parties and negotiates and administers complex agreements to accomplish program goals. Manages cooperative fire agreements with state and federal partners.
May work in variable weather conditions, at remote locations, on difficult and hazardous terrain and under physically demanding circumstances.
Frequently makes independent decision based on analysis, experience, and context.
Works closely with program directors, burn bosses, stewardship managers, and scientists to develop strategies to meet conservation and fire management objectives.
Ensures that fire personnel qualification records are maintained; collects annual updates of information for IQCS and submits to national training office.
BA/BS degree and 5 years’ experience in conservation practice or equivalent combination of education and experience.
2 years’ experience as burn boss (RXB2), and experience with incident review and reporting.
Training as a TNC Fire Manager, or similar state or federal training.
Understanding of Fire Danger Ratings and Outlooks and how to apply them to go/no-go decisions and exemption requests for burning.
Experience managing complex or multiple projects, including staffing, workflows, and finances under deadlines.
Supervisory experience, including motivating, leading, setting objectives, and managing performance.
Experience in partnership development with non-profits, community groups and/or government agencies.
NC Certified Burner or willingness to become certified, including as basic smoke modeler, within a year of hiring.
1-2 years’ experience as fire manager and conservation practitioner, or equivalent combination of education and experience.
Master’s degree in ecology, fire ecology, forestry, natural resources management, or related field.
Experience burning in longleaf pine and evergreen shrub bogs on organic soils, as well as in pine-oak systems in mountainous terrain.
Experience in smoke modeling (Vsmoke and Hysplit).
Knowledge of current restoration and forest ecology literature and relevant datasets; familiarity with ArcGIS and spatial data.
Training in A-100 Basic Aviation Safety Course or S-270 Basic Air Operations; Rx-510 Advanced Fire Effects.
Experience leading 200 and 300 level fire courses and/or completion of M410 Facilitative Instructor course.
Experience in planning and hosting meetings and workshops with 100 or more participants.
Demonstrated experience influencing, developing, and implementing conservation policy and plans.
Communicating clearly via written, spoken, and graphical means in English and other relevant languages.
Demonstrated experience in managing grants and agreements.
Multi-lingual and multi-cultural or cross-cultural experience is appreciated.