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SELA Refuges Programs

Fire Management

We manage two categories of fire in the Southeast Louisiana Refuges.

Prescribed Fire

These are fires that we plan, conduct and control. These fires reduce the level of fuel available for wildfires and remove invasive species and undesirable plants that compete with the trees and other plants that produce desirable habitat. Prescribed fires also return nutrients to the soil and invigorate the plants that respond well to fire.


These are unplanned fires that threaten the environment, property and humans. We fight these fires.

In both cases, the guiding principles of our applicable fire policies are:

• Firefighter and public safety is the first priority in every fire management activity.

• The role of wildland fire as an essential ecological process and natural change agent will be incorporated into the planning process.

• Fire management plans, programs and activities support land and resource management plans and their implementation.

• Sound risk management is a foundation for all fire management activities.

• Fire management programs and activities are economically viable, based upon values to be protected, costs, and land and resource management objectives.

• Fire management plans and activities are based upon the best available science.

• Fire management plans and activities incorporate public health and environmental quality considerations.

• Federal, State, Tribal, and local interagency coordination and cooperation are essential.

• Standardization of policies and procedures among Federal agencies is an ongoing objective

Photo of a morning fire safety briefing before a prescribed fire
© Tom Carlisle

Fire managers and crew meet for a daily briefing, prior to a prescribed fire.

A fire truck used to manage fires in the Southeast Louisiana Refuges.

Photo of a white and red USFWS fire truck
© Tom Carlisle

Fire Management Links

To learn more about the fire management programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partner agencies, see the links below. These web pages will open in a new browser window.

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management page at

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region Fire Management page at

• The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) at

• The National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) at

• The Southern Area Coordination Center (SACC) at

• The National Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Center at

• The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry at

• The Mississippi Forestry Commission at

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More Fire Management Photos

Photo of bright orange flames at a prescribed fire
© Tom Carlisle

A prescribed fire area at Big Branch Marsh NWR is burned from the edge towards the middle.

Fire breaks are cleared to prevent the spread of fires.

Photo of a fire break along the edge of a prescribed fire area
© Tom Carlisle

Photo of a bulldozer with a rear plow on a flatbed truck
© Tom Carlisle

Specialized earthmoving equipment is used to clear fire breaks that prevent the spread of fires and to build fire roads that allow access to manage fires.

An area along the Pipeline Canal at Big Branch Marsh NWR recovers following a prescribed fire.

Photo of an area after a prescribed fire. The plants in the area are  beginning to recover
© Tom Carlisle

The series of photos below shows an area at Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge that was the subject of a prescribed fire. The first photo is before the fire. The second picture is just after the fire. The last four photos show the recovery of the area over the next five months. This animated series may take a few moments to load.

An animated series of photos that shows a pine flatwoods just before, just after and several months after a prescribed fire
Credit USFWS

Photo of an airboat and two fire crew members as they monitor a fire along a canal
© Tom Carlisle

We use airboats to transport the crew members who manage fire in marshy areas of the refuges and along canals and other open water.

The PREMO MK IIIā„¢ fire lighter is used from a helicopter to drop small plastic balls that ignite on the ground to help start prescribed fires. The plastic balls are sometimes referred to as "ping-pong balls" but they are actually smaller and made of a different plastic than ping-pong balls.

Photo of the Premo fire lighter, also known as the ping-pong ball machine
© Tom Carlisle

Photo of a helicoter being used by fire crews to monitor and in some areas to light the precribed fire using the Premo fire lighter
© Tom Carlisle

We also use aircraft as observation posts to monitor fires and to ignite prescribed fires in certain areas.

The Marshmaster is useful in areas where we have to move easily from dry land to marsh and even to open water.

Photo of the Marshmaster tracked ATV for use on land and in the marsh
© Tom Carlisle

Photo of fresh green grass growing in a pine flatwoods following a prescribed fire
© Tom Carlisle

Desirable grasses begin to recover following a prescribed fire.

Crawfish quickly recover and return to their normal habits after a prescribed fire. Here we see a fresh crawfish mound but the crawfish is out of sight.

Photo of a crawfish mound in a recently burned prescribed fire area
© Tom Carlisle

This sequence of photos shows a prescribed fire as it moves through an area, to a water-filled roadside ditch. The water filled ditch and the road serve as a fire break. This sequence of eleven photos spans a period of ten minutes.

Animated series of photos of a prescribed fire burning through pine flatwoods to a water filled ditch
© Tom Carlisle

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Last Updated on January 13, 2011