Living With Fire
Living With Fire
The majority of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lands have evolved with fire. The wildlife and plants supported by these forests, grasslands, wetlands, and deserts depend on fire for their survival. Lack of periodic fire in these wildlands (due to fire suppression or fragmentation of landscapes from human development) has increased the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
The dangers of excluding natural fire include large and damaging fires resulting from the accumulation of flammable vegetation above historic levels; loss of life or serious injury to firefighters and the public; property loss and damage; adverse health effects and impaired visibility from intense or extended periods of unmanageable smoke; loss of plant and animal species and their habitats; and damage to soils, watersheds and water quality.
The Service has been using prescribed fire safely, cost-effectively, and regularly on a landscape-scale since the 1930s. This practice has resulted in Service lands being in relatively healthy ecological condition overall with a low risk of catastrophic fire.
Service biologists and fire managers recognize that there is no ecological equivalent to fire; no other fuels treatment method or natural disturbance yields the identical or complete range of benefits that result from the occurrence of wildland fire within ecosystems that have evolved with fire.
The Service's fire management program benefits the environment and society in many ways including keeping firefighters and the public safe, reducing the effects of smoke produced by unwanted fire, reducing damage to natural resources and private property from wildfire, and protecting and sustaining plants and animals that depend on fire.