Raise Awareness about Wildland Fires

By Branch of Wildland Fire

Raise your awareness about wildfires so you can be prepared! Wildfire season rotates around the country, but a wildfire could happen at any time if the conditions are right.

fire at fern lake
The Fern Lake fire started from an illegal campfire on October 9th, 2012, and it wasn't declared out until early 2013. Not a typical time for wildfires in Rocky Mountains National Park, but drought and dead trees made the conditions right to support a wildfire.

A Natural Part of Our World

Wildfires are a part of nature, but for many, they can be scary because of threats to life and property. Typically, wildfires start by lightning or humans--whether accidentally or on purpose. Less frequently, they start by lava flows.

To start, and keep it going, a wildfire requires three things:

  • Heat – an ignition source such as lightning or matches (which we don’t encourage!).
  • Fuel – such as leaf litter, plants, and trees, though buildings can be fuel for a wildfire as well.
  • Oxygen – the air we breathe.

Removing any one of these three elements will stop a wildfire.

The Seasonal Rotation

Throughout the United States, there are specific times of the year when a wildfire is more likely to occur in a particular region. The Eastern United States typically sees a spring and fall fire season. Alaska and the Southwest come into fire season in late spring, early summer. As fuels dry out, fire season gradually moves north into the Great Basin and Northern Rockies and west into the Northwest.Fires can happen in California and other areas experiencing severe drought during any time of year. However, anytime the conditions are right, a wildfire can occur. Drought or more moisture can have an effect on how early or late fire season begins.

person cleaning house gutters
Cleaning gutters and installing a spark arrester on a chimney can help to make a home safe in the event of a wildfire and prevent one from starting.

Being Prepared

Wildfire does not know, or care about, boundaries. This is true on federal, state, and private lands. There are many simple things homeowners and business owners can do to prepare their property in the event of a wildfire. Clearing brush, trees, and other flammable materials away from structures helps keep buildings, residents, and firefighters safe. Firefighters appreciate the help given to them by residents who are willing to do their part on private property to reduce risk prior to a fire incident. The Firewise website has additional information and resources about Wildfire Preparedness.

Managing Wildland Fire at All Levels

Local, state, tribal, and federal agencies support one another in wildfire response, planning, and decision making. Working together keeps responsiveness up and costs down. Agencies can share limited resources, whether they are firefighters, equipment, or other services.

In the National Park Service, some wildfires are managed to restore ecosystems, provided there is a low threat to life or property. However, no structure, natural resource, or cultural resource is worth the loss of human life.

Prescribed fires are frequently used in the national parks to reduce fuels, preventing larger or catastrophic wildfires. Typically years of planning and science go into preparing for prescribed fires, and it takes just the right conditions on the ground before fire managers ignite a prescribed fire. Learn more about prescribed fire in the national parks.

Visiting a National Park During Fire Season

  • Check out these additional tips for visitors to parks during wildfire season.
  • Check InciWeb for wildfire updates from the national parks.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see National Park Service posts about wildfires, prescribed fire, and fire management in the parks.

Be safe, and be prepared for wildfire.

Last updated: December 7, 2016