Fire suppression is the variety of tactics used by various firefighting crews to contain, control or put out wildland fires. Fighting fires in forests or other wildland areas is vastly different than putting out fires in cities or towns where fire departments with various fire trucks and plenty of water put out structural fires.
Working By Hand And Air
If the crew can reach the fire while it is still small, these tools can be enough to contain or put out the fire. If the crew is near water rubber bags with spray nozzles can be employed. Since it typically takes longer to learn of wildland fires and dispatch crews to fight them, and it may be difficult to get the crews to the fire location, a hand tool crew may well not be enough to fight the fire.
Firefighting aircraft may then need to be employed. Helicopters can drop water on the biggest flames and airplanes can drop fire retardant chemicals on the fires and these methods can be quite effective.
The Great Fire of 1910 in northeast Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana burned about 3,000,000 acres and is believed to be the largest area to burn in United States history (and about five times the area that burned in Yellowstone in 1988). The policy of complete fire suppression has to be looked at in light of the history of the fires just mentioned as well as other significant blazes.
Changes In Fire Policy
The availability of fire suppression equipment and techniques far superior to what was available a hundred years ago has also played a part in our ability to allow fire to play a different and more natural role in the natural world.
Even in light of all the above, there are still further considerations when considering fire policy. The uses of the land involved, the facilities present, the potential of fire to spread onto adjacent land with other uses or ownership all have played a role in Bighorn Canyon suppressing fires whether they are natural or man-caused.
But the park has used prescribed fire in a number of cases to further management policies, but those fires are only under conditions where there is a much high degree of control.