Prescribed Fire

Refuge staff at a prescribed fire

Prescribed fire is used on a variety of habitats to remove hazardous fuel loads, control non-native invasive species, as well as to enhance and maintain habitat values.

A prescribed burn is a controlled burn pre-planned by refuge management in a specific area for a specific resource objective. Prescribed fires may be used to reduce hazard fuels, restore the natural processes and vitality of ecosystems, improve wildlife habitat, remove or reduce non-native species, and/or conduct research. It is often used in conjunction with other management tools such as grazing, mowing, and herbicide applications.

Typically, prescribed burns are applied to managed wetlands during spring or summer. Depending on conditions and habitat objectives, both dry and overwater burning can be successful. Fire lines and buffers are disked around the burn area to increase controllability. The firing pattern allows for an avenue or direction of escape for wildlife. Follow-up disking is often used to ensure that roots of target species (i.e. hard-stemmed bulrush, cattail, jointgrass, etc.) are killed and enhance germination of desirable species. The result is a desirable mix of vegetation species, stature are more productive and reduces the risk of life and property from larger more destructive wildfires. The frequency of burning wetland units depends on habitat type, vegetation species composition, soil type, and tendency for growth.  
Prescribed burns in grasslands, alkali meadows, and vernal pools are used to reduce invasive species and stimulate native plant species. Resource benefits include maintaining biodiversity (especially native plant communities and the wildlife they support), providing browse for waterfowl, and general maintenance of habitat for short grass wildlife species. These burns may occur at any times of the year, depending on specific objectives and condition of the habitat.

The Fire Crew

The California North Central Valley Fire Management Zone is headquartered at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Willows, California. The program provides fire management services for the Sacramento NWR, Delevan NWR, Colusa NWR, Sutter NWR, Sacramento River NWR, Stone Lakes NWR, Red Bluff Field Office, Coleman National Fish Hatchery (NFH) and Livingston Stone NFH. The fire program emphasizes fire suppression, prevention, hazardous fuels reduction and prescribed fire. The Zone's fire management mission is to provide a team approach to safe, efficient, and professional fire management program while protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat.

The Fire Management Staff is stationed at the Sacramento NWR. The staff includes: Fire Management Officer, Fire Engine Operators and several Temporary Firefighters.

The fire program operates with two Type-3 engines, one Type-6 fire engine and one water tender. The fire staff participates on interagency incident management teams, refuge fire responses, off-unit assignments across the Nation, interagency prescribed fire operations and interagency training assignments. The zone treats an average of 1,200 to 1,800 acres per year for a range of resource objectives including hazardous fuels reduction, community protection and habitat enhancement.

The fire staff is augmented by a strong contingent of collateral duty fire qualified personnel. Over 10 Complex staff members from biologists, law enforcement, equipment operators and refuge managers assist with wildfire support and prescribed fire operations.