National Wildlife Refuge System

Precautions Prevent Large Fire at California Refuge

The Sandy Fire at the northwest corner of Merced National Wildlife Refuge along Sandy Mush Road generates a large smoke column. Refuge firefighters patrolling nearby quickly contained the fire at one acre.
Credit: USFWS

June 5, 2014 National wildlife refuge managers in California feared that the three-year-old drought and other conditions would bring an early wildfire season.  They were right.  


On May 27-28, high temperatures and strong winds brought warnings about high fire danger for the northern San Joaquin Valley in central California; the five-person fire staff at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex took action, enlisting help from refuge staff qualified as wildland firefighters.  They got an extra engine rolling to help reinforce fuel breaks and conduct after-hours patrols.


Their precautions paid off when a fire at Merced National Wildlife Refuge was contained at just one acre. "In that location, under the existing conditions, the fire had the potential to easily grow to 500 or 1,000 acres if the engine not been working nearby," said Peter Kelly, Fire Management Officer for the 45,000-acre complex, which encompasses Merced Refuge and three other refuges, and 100,000 acres of adjacent private lands.

Credit: USFWS

Last updated: June 5, 2014