Wildland fire policy, 2009

There are several changes and clarifications in the way wildland fires on federal land will be managed in 2009.  These are identified in two documents recently released:

1. Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy, February 13, 2009, which replaces the Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (June 20, 2003).

2. Five National Themes for 2009 Fire Season.

Both of these documents can be downloaded from our new Documents page.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Any kind of fire, from planned or unplanned ignitions, can be managed to achieve land management goals.  And different objectives and management strategies can be utilized on multiple portions of one fire.
  • This may not be a change, but it is stated very clearly in the “Policy” document:  “The primary responsibility for protecting private property and rural communities lies with individual property owners and local governments.”
  • Agencies will develop a common process for determining budget needs and cost sharing for all aspects of ñre management operations.
  • Agencies will use compatible planning processes, funding mechanisms, training and qualification requirements, operational procedures, values-to-be- protected methodologies, and public education programs for all fire management activities.
  • Fire management planning, preparedness, prevention, suppression, fire use, restoration and rehabilitation, monitoring, research, and education will be conducted on an interagency basis with the involvement of cooperators and partners.
  • Agency administrators will ensure that their employees are trained, certified, and made available to participate in the wildland fire program locally, regionally, and nationally as the situation demands. Employees with operational, administrative, or other skills will support the wildland fire program as necessary. Agency administrators are responsible and will be held accountable for making employees available.

To implement some of the above policies, agencies may have to rewrite their fire management plans or environmental compliance documents.

The Extermal Affairs folks at the National Interagency Fire Center put together some talking points, or “Fire Themes”, that they want to emphasize this year.  Here is the entire text from that document, which can be downloaded from our Documents page:

Five National Themes for 2009 Fire Season

1. Safety always comes first in fire management.

  • When firefighters need to make a decision, the first question always is, “Can we do this safely?” If the answer is no, they will take another direction.
  • No natural or cultural resource or structure is worth a human life.

2. More acres burn now and many fires are more difficult to suppress. Here’s why.

  • An abundance of flammable vegetation, changing climate and more homes built in fire-prone areas are the primary reasons for more acres burning and the increased challenge of suppressing fires in the last decade.
  • More acres are forecast to burn in the future. Experts predict 10-12 million acres will burn annually within the next five years. (Quadrennial Fire Review, January 2009)
  • Right response, right time, right reasons.
  • Each fire is different and not all fires are managed the same way.

3. The right response may include using several tactics on a fire.

  • The right response may mean anything from monitoring a fire that is helping the landscape to aggressively suppressing a wildfire that threatens people, homes or important resources.
  • At times, fires can benefit natural resources, helping to cleanse the landscape and renew vegetation. If a fire poses no threat to humans or important resources, firefighters may allow it to follow its natural course.
  • Firefighters base their decisions on many reasons. The reasons include risk to people, weather, fire behavior, information contained in land and fire plans, cost, and other considerations.

4. In fire, we all work together.

  • Federal, state, tribal and local firefighters work together to keep the public safe and natural resources protected.
  • Pooling our strengths, resources and experience improves our efficiency and effectiveness.

5. Firefighters count on you. You’re part of fire management, too.

  • If you own a home in a fire-prone area, you should take a few simple steps to make your property more defensible. Firefighters count on you to do that. It will improve your safety and that of firefighters. It will increase the chances that your home will survive a wildfire.
  • Wildland firefighters are not responsible for fireproofing your home. You are. What you do before fire season may make the difference whether your home survives a wildfire.

Prepared by NIFC External Affairs: March 26, 2009

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