Wildlife Refuges
Conserving the Nature of America in the Southwest Region
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Division of Fire Management

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Our Vision

As professional land stewards, we believe in using the best science available and sound management principles to safely and efficiently protect our personnel, infrastructure, natural resources and ecosystem services.

Who we are

The Service's Fire Management Program is currently administered as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System under the Division of Natural Resources, and protects and manages burnable acres on all Service lands. The program also provides mutual aid to other federal, state and local fire management agencies and is a member of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, a consortium of federal and state fire professionals that determine standards for wildland fire training and operations. Fire is essential to managing the majority of the Service's 145-million-acres, which includes 552 national wildlife refuges, some 27,000 tracts of land in special management areas, and 69 national fish hatcheries in all the 50 states and U.S. territories (in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Islands). The Service's fire management professionals have diverse expertise including fire planning and operations, science and technology, fire ecology, smoke management, wildlife and fisheries biology, forestry, range conservation, and soil and water resources.

Operational Leadership

Firefighter and public safety is the first priority of the wildland fire management program (Fireline Handbook, March 2004).

The most essential element of successful wildland firefighting is competent and confident leadership (Incident Response Pocket Guide 2010). Leadership means providing purpose, direction and motivation for wildland firefighters working to accomplish difficult tasks under dangerous, stressful circumstances. In confusing and uncertain situations, a good operational leader will;

  • Take Charge of assigned resources
  • Motivate firefighters with a ‘can do safely’ attitude.
  • Demonstrate Initiative by taking action in the absence of orders.
  • Communicate by giving specific instructions and asking for feedback.
  • Supervise at the scene of action.

What We Do

Fire management is integrated into the FWS land management program. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages fire to protect FWS personnel, facilities and surrounding communities while also protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife, and plants, and their habitats. The major responsibilities of the FWS fire management program include wildfire prevention and preparedness; fire planning; prescribed fire for hazardous fuels reduction and to maintain and enhance wildlife habitats; fire behavior and weather; fire ecology, adaptive management, inventory and monitoring; and burned area emergency stabilization and rehabilitation (See descriptions below and web links to additional resources). This involves technical expertise in wildland fire tactics, prescribed burning, an understanding of fire ecology, and working together with Refuge biologists, staff and the public. Arguably one of the most physically arduous and dangerous natural resource professions, wildland fire management involves multiple objectives and dynamic strategies, depending upon conditions and resource objectives outlined in Refuge fire management plans for specific units.

Restoring and maintaining FWS fire-adapted ecosystems in future desired conditions by using prescribed burning and wildfires for resource benefits, overall is one of the most cost-effective, long-term fire management strategies. This strategy reduces fire risk that maximizes long-term protection to communities while minimizing the costs of fire suppression and emergency rehabilitation of lands damaged by undesirable wildfires. Region 2, Refuges Fire Management Branch is organized into 8 Fire Management Districts each with a Fire Management Officer and fire staff.

Click the map below to see a larger image.
Thumbnail of the Southwest Fire District

Program Brochures

Last updated: February 1, 2021