WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
REGION 8: During Fire Season, Our First Priority is Safety
Region 8, May 22, 2009
San Diego NWR Refuge Manager Jill Terp explains how removing fuels and creating defensible space around homes helps prevent the spread of wildfires into housing areas. (photo: Scott Flaherty)
San Diego NWR Refuge Manager Jill Terp explains how removing fuels and creating defensible space around homes helps prevent the spread of wildfires into housing areas. (photo: Scott Flaherty) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Scott Flaherty, External Affairs
With the 2009 fire season upon us, the Pacific Southwest Region is clarifying how to handle fire situations in California and Nevada when endangered or threatened species may be involved. The Service will follow the emergency consultation process as detailed in Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which states that formal consultation will be initiated as soon as practicable after the emergency is under control.

Persistent drought throughout the Pacific southwest region is increasing the potential for another active fire season. While predictions indicate a below normal fire season in Nevada, an above normal wildfire season is predicted for California, especially in the northern California where drought, early snow melt and a dry spring is resulting in an abundance of dry seasonal grasses and other fuels.

On May 21, Ren Lohoefener, Regional Director for the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region sent a memorandum to all field supervisors and staff reminding them about priorities and procedures.

 “Under no circumstances will we take chances with human safety,” Lohoefener said. “Safety is our top priority. Any action needed to safeguard human life will be taken first. We will regroup and accomplish our consultations afterward."   

Service personnel are coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Tribes, California Department of Forestry, Cal Fire, Nevada Department of Forestry, county officials and others to expedite the consultation process for emergency situations. The Service will follow the emergency consultation process as detailed in Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which states that formal consultation will be initiated as soon as practicable after the emergency is under control.

In addition to providing consultations on endangered and threatened species, the Service has a long-standing role in fire prevention, hazardous fuels reduction, fire preparedness and response.

The Service completes annual fire readiness reviews of all fire personnel located at the National Wildlife Refuges throughout California and Nevada. Fire staff complete training, prepare fire equipment, and work to improve communications with interagency and local fire authorities. Service firefighters suppress unwanted and unmanaged wildfires on refuge lands and also support State and local fire response efforts.

The Service's hazardous fuels reduction projects include prescribed burning, mechanical, and biological treatments such as grazing. These projects work to reduce hazardous levels of vegetation, increase defensible space, enhance habitat and protect communities and property from catastrophic wildfire. Defensible space is the area around a structure that has been landscaped to reduce fire danger.

To find out more about the Service's fire program in California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin visit http://www.fws.gov/cno/fire/  

 

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov