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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fire Management Program is responsible for protecting and restoring lands in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Pacific Islands territories.

Break in Vegetation Aids Firefighters in Puerto Rico

2008

When four separate fires ignited from May 23 and 28, firefighters from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques were able to test the effectiveness of their pre-existing fuel break, a line of cleared vegetation designed to stop or slow fire spread.

All four fires started on the boundary of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The largest of the fires, the Tres Casas Fire, started in dry grass and grew quickly. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service firefighters along with the local fire department (know as “Bomberos”) arrived on the scene and began extinguishing the flames. 

As the fire moved toward the fuel break, firefighters used it successfully to help contain the incident and to prevent it from moving into the heavy brush and grass within the refuge boundary. Without the fuel break in place, a much more complex and dangerous fire situation would have occurred. The interior of the refuge is covered with unexploded ordinances and very thick brush that would have limited the options for fire suppression. Many homes are adjacent to the refuge and could have been threatened or destroyed if the fire had not been caught. Instead only three primitive structures were damaged or destroyed.

The fuel break was originally created prior to the establishment of the refuge when the area served as a bombing range for the U.S. Navy.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now maintains the fuel break annually to help keep fire from moving either onto or off of refuge managed lands. 

The Refuge is home to several unique natural habitat types as well as housing cultural sites with historical importance to the island.

Fire break

 

During late May, an annually maintained fuel break on the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge helps firefighters stop a fire from spreading into dense vegetation and potentially threatening multiple homes which border the refuge.

 

 

 

 

(USFWS Photo)

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