Fire management is a crucial program for the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Fire is a natural ecological process across most terrestrial habitats in North America. Many plants and animals have evolved to be fire adapted and depend on the effects of wildfire on the landscape. The Complex’s fire program is to extinguish all wildfires (to provide for public safety and protect natural resources) and to use prescribed or controlled fire for fuels management and for ecological purposes on its land including habitat improvement and maintenance, threatened and endangered species management, invasive plant reduction, nutrient recycling, improved forage for grazing wildlife and disease prevention.
The fire program at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex consists of a staff of nine along with other staff as needed to assist. The fire program maintains both light and heavy wildfire engines. The main purpose of the program is to suppress unwanted wildfires (along with many local partners) at the Complex and adjacent lands and to conduct a fuels program to reduce the effects of wildfires. The fuels program consists of activities to reduce fuel (i.e., vegetation) loading to minimize fire behavior and make suppression efforts easier for firefighters. Many of the Complex’s fuels program consists of prescribed burning where select areas on the refuge units are burned in a controlled manner under preselected conditions to achieve desired vegetation states. The Complex’s fire program also supports the larger federal effort of suppressing large wildfires throughout the West by sending staff and equipment to assist with these multi-agency efforts. The fire staff at the San Luis Complex have been part of wildfire suppression efforts in almost every western state.