Wildland & Prescribed Fire
Fire management in our National Parks combines fire operations, prescribed fire and fire ecology in order to maintain fire in the natural ecosystems while adequately considering impacts upon nearby human population centers as well as threatened and endangered species habitat. Fire managers follow a comprehensive fire plan that allows the restoration of fire regimes through a full range of management tools including aviation.
Helicopter use Increases Firefighter and Public Safety
Natural fire, prescribed fire, hazard fuel reduction, and fire effects monitoring help restore natural processes while providing for firefighter and public safety. Helicopter use allows for timely delivery of personnel to backcountry fires that in some cases would exceed a 2 day hike. Once firefighters are committed to an incident, the protection of human life is the single most overriding priority for that incident. Setting priorities among protecting human communities and community infrastructure, other property and improvements, and natural and cultural resources will be based on the values to be protected, human health and safety, and the costs of protection.
Helicopters and Airplanes Play an Important Role in Managing Wildland Fires
Aircraft are used for a wide variety of missions such as an “aerial platform” in which managers have an “eye in the sky” view to coordinate ground and aerial assets. Aircraft are used to deliver firefighters from the air as well as on the ground.
Aircraft are used for operational and logistical support during wildland fires. Helicopters, SEATS (Single Engine Air Tankers) and large Air tankers are used to drop water and fire retardant, “slurry”, to slow the spread of the fire.
Logistically, helicopters are most often used to support wildland fires by delivering supplies, equipment, water and food to personnel on the fireline, but fixed wing aircraft are used to transport fire personnel over longer distances.
Prescribed Fire Reduces Wildland Fire Risks and Improves Park Ecosystems
Prescribed burns are conducted to reduce hazardous fuel loads near developed areas, manage landscapes, restore natural woodlands and for research purposes. Aircraft are often utilized in the same manner for prescribed fires as they are for wildland fires. Managers will use aircraft to reconnaissance areas to be burn before, during and after a prescribed burn is conducted. In addition, prescribed fires are often ignited aerially with a helitorch or PSD machine (plastic sphere dispenser) “ping pong balls.”