A National Strategy for Fire Management

Lakewood, Colo., August 4, 2008 -- Fire crews from all over Denver set up to protect homes from the Green Mountain fire.  image: Michael Rieger/FEMA

The Green Mountain fire in Lakewood, Colorado on August 4, 2008
image: Michael Rieger/FEMA

Earlier this month, a report on the National Cohesive Fire Management Strategy was released, the result of a three-phase planning and analysis effort to examine and address the complexities of wildland fire management issues. Initiated in 2009 as part of the Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act (FLAME Act), the report was developed collaboratively by federal, state, tribal, and local community partners, and public stakeholders, to outline national and regional approaches for effectively restoring forested landscapes, preparing for the increasing effects of climate change, and minimizing destructive wildfires in the future.

As defined in the report, the Cohesive Strategy vision for the next century is: To safely and effectively extinguish fire when needed; use fire where allowable; manage our natural resources; and, as a Nation, live with wildland fire. The primary national goals identified as necessary to achieving this vision are:

  1. Restore and maintain resilient landscapes
  2. Fire-adapted communities in which human populations and infrastructure can withstand a wildfire without loss of life and property
  3. A cohesive wildfire response with all jurisdictions participating to make and implement safe, effective, efficient risk-based wildfire management decisions

Suggestions for action include:

  • using preventative measures, such as controlled burns;
  • encouraging effective state, county, and municipal building and zoning codes;
  • ensuring that future management plans include watersheds, transportation, and utility corridors;
  • using risk analysis to address how factors such as climate change, pests, disease, and urban sprawl will affect forest health;
  • and determining how organizations can best work together share knowledge and expand best practices to address wildland fire threats across the country.

The National Cohesive Fire Management Strategy supports the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, announced in June 2013. According to the USDA press release about the report:

The impacts of a changing climate on wildland fire risk management are observable in the form of extended drought periods, longer fire seasons, timber stands that are susceptible to insect infestation and mortality, and greater rates of fire spread, all of which can contribute to larger and more complex and costly incidents. These impacts challenge the fire community to provide more annual coverage and response capability for a longer period of time, as well as maintain a high initial attack success rate on faster growing fires, all while managing incidents of unprecedented size and complexity. Improving the resilience of landscapes will make natural areas and communities less vulnerable to catastrophic fire.

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