Fire managers focus on protecting life and property as well as maintaining fire as part of fire adapted ecosystems for forest health and ecosystem resiliency. The range of response is as varied as the landscapes of the central United States.
The Midwest Region includes parks in 13 states. From the Dakotas, south to Arkansas and east to the Ohio River, encompassing all the Great Lake states.
With such a large geographic area, the ecosystems found throughout the region bring different challenges and techniques to firefighters working in these parks. There are six different ecoregions that make up the forests and grasslands of the Midwest.
In some areas, Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, fire has always been a frequent visitor. Firefighters at Tallgrass Prairie use prescribed fire as a tool to replicate the large prairie fires that the grasses need to survive.
In parks like Voyageurs, smoke from lightning fires may be part of the late summer and fall landscape. These fires increase the biodiversity of both plant and animal habitats.
Conversely, the intermix of park lands and homes, Wildland-Urban Interface, at Indiana Dunes necessitates a quick response to protect life and property.
In parks like Hot Springs, invasive species are changing the frequency and intensities of fires and this may threaten native plants and animals.
Visitors to historic parks, Wilsons Creek National Battlefield in Missouri are able to see a landscape that resembles that which the soldiers who fought there over 150 years ago did.
Living Wisely with Fire
Prevention and Education
Wildland Fire is a reality Midwest. While many of our wildfires do not grow to sizes like those found in western states, many of our parks do have high occurrences of wildfire. The National Park Service partners with nearby communities and with neighboring federal, state, and local fire departments to reduce the risk of unwanted fire in developed areas. Defensible space programs, Firewise Communities, and prevention programs aimed at stopping accidental ignitions, help protect residents and visitors. Grant programs, such as the Rural Fire Assistance Program, helps Volunteer Fire Departments that are located near or adjacent to NPS lands with purchasing equipment and supplies that ensures that they can safely help respond to fires that threaten our parks.
- Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department Receives $20,000 Grant from Wind Cave NP
- Volunteer Fire Departments Receive Rural Fire Assistance
Parks also use mechanical thinning as a means to reduce fuels near developed areas. Sometimes, an area may need mechanical thinning before prescribed fire (see below) can be used as a tool. Human caused fires or fires that threaten life and property are suppressed.
When to use fire as a tool
Fire, a vital process throughout the region, has long been excluded by fire suppression. This has resulted in abnormally high levels of forest fuels. Prescribed fires reduce these fuels, which in turn reduces the risk of an unwanted fire during hotter, drier conditions. Most parks focus on wildland urban interface (nearby communities) to help protect them from fire. Parks also use prescribed fire to re-establish fire as a natural process and achieve desired ecological goals.
Training, Experience, and Science
The success of fire management in the region is based upon multiple factors. Fire crews are trained and drill for wildland fire response based upon interagency standards. This means they can respond to fires in the parks, within their communities, and throughout the nation. This depth of experience provides them range of options (from suppression to prescribed fire) to make the best decisions for the safety of park visitors, the protection of park developments, and the health of the forests. Fire ecology science informs and verifies fire management decisions.
Fire Management Websites in the Midwest Region
To learn more about the different fire management programs in the regions, please click the links below:
- Effigy Mounds National Monument
- Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
- Grand Portage National Monument
- Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
- Homestead National Monument of America
- Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
- Hot Springs National Park
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
- Isle Royale National Park
- Jewel Cave National Monument
- Keweenaw National Historical Park
- Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
- Ozark National Scenic Riverways
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- Voyageurs National Park
- Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
- Wind Cave National Park