Fire Management

Prescribed fire in the Blitzen Valley

The goal of the refuge's fire management program is to enhance wildlife habitat on the refuge while reducing the possibility of damaging wildfires. We use fire - one of nature’s tools - to protect life and property and enhance natural resources for the benefit of wildlife.

Fire is an integral part of the southeast Oregon ecosystem and an important management tool at Malheur Refuge. 

The Burns Interagency Fire Zone is made up of professional wildland firefighters who are stationed at the refuge and throughout the County. These firefighters respond to wildfires on the refuge, in the County and elsewhere in the country, as well as work with refuge staff to meet the management goals of the refuge. Fire once occurred naturally on this landscape, but with the settlement of the area came suppression of wildfires. To mimic that historic burning regime for the benefit of wildlife, the Fire Management program conducts prescribed burns under a very strict prescription with safety as the top priority. In addition, the fire program works with surrounding communities to help them protect themselves from wild fires. As the population grows and development expands into the wild land and urban interface, the risk of wildfires is significantly increasing for those who chose to live near wild lands. The fire program strives to support communities in their effort to protect citizens and property from wildfires.


Wildfires are unplanned, unwanted fires that burn uncontrollably. They destroy natural resources, property and lives. Lightning ignites most wildfires in our area, however human caused ignitions also occur.

2014 wildfire was one of the most severe fire seasons in the northwest in decades. Over one and a quarter million acres burned in Washington and Oregon during the 2014 fire season. There were over 3600 fires and 95 large fires. The Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group, made up of eleven federal, state and local agencies and organizations, is working on a history of this incredible season. They have produced an excellent video to document a small part of that history.

Prescribed Fires

Prescribed fires are planned to meet specific management objectives. Professionals regularly use prescribed fire as a management tool on national wildlife refuges. Prescribed fires are carefully managed and applied only under predetermined conditions to ensure the desired results are achieved. Habitat manipulation can be attained by varying fire timing, frequency, and intensity. The proper use of prescribed fire reduces fuel that can cause damaging fire and maintains the ecosystem in a diverse, healthy and vigorous state.

Wildland Urban Interface

Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is the area in or near wild lands (grasslands and forests) where homes are located. As more people build their homes in this interface, the potential for wildfire damage increases. There are steps we can take to protect our homes, property, structures and ourselves from wildfires. Fire Wise is a program designed to help keep you, your family and your property safe from wildfires. This program provides landowners with many tools to make their homes and property Fire Wise, and thus better able to withstand the destructive outcome of wildfire.

To learn more about how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses fire as a resource management tool, please visit the national Fire Management website.