Firefighters Visit Refuge to Prepare for Fire Response

August 2009

Two engine crews from the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park toured the National Elk Refuge last week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to develop a familiarity with the layout of the roads, the numbering system, and local place names used to identify various locations on the refuge. With only two staff members currently qualified in the wildland fire system, the National Elk Refuge depends on its interagency partners for initial response and suppression during a wildfire. This exercise will help firefighters expedite response time and efficiency should a fire start on the refuge.

The crews were each given a map of the refuge to keep on board their engine. An additional copy of the map will be stored as a reference document in the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center, which manages fire communications for the Federal agencies. During the tour, which included approximately 20 miles of unpaved roads, crew members noted key information such as bridge weight restrictions, turnaround points, and availability of water for refilling the engines.  Crews also identified any issues with communications, testing the ability to hit radio repeaters at various locations on the refuge, especially in the draws. Communication is one of the most important safety concerns for firefighters.

Deputy Refuge Manager Tom Reed led a discussion on resource considerations such as sensitive areas and invasive species. “It’s a good idea to have those already identified,” Reed explained, “since we may not have time to provide a resource advisor during the initial stages of a wildfire response.”

The National Elk Refuge serves as a critical component of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and provides winter range for the nationally significant Jackson elk herd.


Fire crews refer to maps of the National Elk Refuge during a tour of the refuge road system.

Elk crews refer to maps of the National Elk Refuge during a tour of the refuge road system.


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Last Updated: 08/24/2009