North Carolina

North Carolina

Refuge Holds Wildland/Community Fire Drill

February 2010

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge recently worked with the North Carolina Forest Service to host a 2-day field exercise for local volunteer fire departments and others in how to fight a large fire, such as the nearby Evans Road Fire which occurred in eastern North Carolina in June, 2008.

During the scenario, field teams practiced large-fire planning and communications. Tasks included visiting several sites where wildland is adjacent to homes and/or businesses to develop strategies for protecting the communities.

The exercise also provided training in the Incident Management System, an organizational structure used by all federal and most state agencies, to provide consistent terminology, training, and position qualifications. The system has been used for handling critical incidents at both local and national levels, such as explosions, earthquakes, and hurricanes, as well as wildfires.

"We know it's not a matter of 'if' we get a big fire here - it's a matter of 'when',” said Refuge Fire Management Officer Tom Crews. “We're working really hard using prescribed fire to thin vegetation on the refuge, so a wildfire would be manageable.  But there is still a lot out there.  And, when it's dry, it's really dry.” 

“Building relationships with people you'll be fighting fires with has been proven to be the best investment you can make for safety,” he added.  “After this exercise, I think we all feel a bit more confident about how we would approach fighting a large wildfire on the Dare County mainland."

The exercise was funded by the federal Ready Reserve Program. For additional information or questions, contact Kelley Van Druten at 252-473-1131 ext 235 or


Members of the Manns Harbor VFD, Stumpy Point VFD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and North Carolina Division of Forest Resources discuss tactics for protecting homes from a large wildfire. Bonnie Strawser, USFWS


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