DIRECTOR'S ORDER #18: WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT
Approved: /s/ Mary A. Bomar
January 16, 2008
Sunset Date: This order will remain in effect until amended
This Director's Order states the basic principles
and strategic guidelines governing the management of wildland fire by the
National Park Service (NPS). It is a renewal of the previously issued
Wildland Fire Management Director's Order, which had a sunset date of December
31, 2006. It has been updated to implement the Federal
Wildland Fire Management Policy. The provisions
of this Director’s Order and Reference
Manual 18 provide further direction for Section 4.5 of Management
Policies 2006 and supersede all previous NPS
instructions, requirements, and statements of policy relating to wildland
fire management that may be in conflict.
- Background, Purpose, and Mission Goals
- Legal Authority to Issue this Directive
- Federal Fire Management Policies
- Management Policies
- Operational Principles, Policies, and Procedures
- Program Requirements
1. BACKGROUND, OBJECTIVES, AND MISSION GOALS
an important part of fulfilling its mission, the National Park Service manages
wildland fire to protect the public; park communities and infrastructure;
conserve natural and cultural resources; and maintain and restore natural
ecosystems and processes. The risks
and expenses associated with planning and implementing fire management activities
require exceptional skill and attention to detail. The highest priority under all circumstances is firefighter and public
safety. All plans, project implementation, and responses
to wildland fire must demonstrate this commitment.
purpose of this Director’s Order is as follows:
- Emphasize firefighter and public safety
as the first priority in every fire management activity.
- Establish a framework by which the
NPS will institutionalize and implement principles, policies, organizational
and operational relationships, and changes in law and reporting requirements.
- Provide a course of action for developing
a cooperative, effective, and efficient approach for the preparation, response
to, and recovery from wildfire incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity.
This will include a core set of concepts, principles,
terminology, and technologies covering the incident command system (ICS),
multi-agency coordination systems, training, and the identification and management
1.3 Mission Goals
The Mission Goals for the NPS Wildland Fire Management
Program are as follows:
- Protect Values Through Effective Risk Management: Protect life, communities and resources from adverse effects of wildland
fire without compromising safety.
- Restore and Maintain Fire-adapted Ecosystems: Maintain and restore fire adapted ecosystems using appropriate tools
and techniques in a manner that will provide sustainable, environmental and
- Science Based Management: General and park-specific science and research
guides the wildland fire program.
- Integrate Wildland Fire With Other NPS Programs: Fire management programs are responsive to Service-wide and park priorities
and are integrated with other NPS programs.
- External Audiences Understand and Support
Wildland Fire Programs: NPS fire
management will communicate and coordinate with interagency organizations
and other stakeholders to pursue common goals, programs and projects.
- Build and Promote Organizational Effectiveness: Fire management programs achieve desired outcomes by building program
capacity, leadership and effective management practices.
2. LEGAL AUTHORITY
TO ISSUE THIS DIRECTIVE
Director’s Order is issued under authority of 16 U.S.C. § 1 through 4 and
Delegations of Authority in Part 245 of the Departmental Manual. It is intended
to improve the internal management of the NPS and is not intended to, and
does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable
by law, or equity, by a party against the United States, its departments,
agencies, instrumentalities or entities, its officers or employees, or any
3. FEDERAL FIRE MANAGEMENT POLICIES
All fires burning in natural or landscaped vegetation
will be considered wildland fires. Wildland
fire is defined as any non-structure fire that occurs in the wildland.
All wildland fires will be effectively managed
through application of the appropriate strategic and tactical management options.
These options will be selected after comprehensive
consideration of firefighter and public safety, the resource values to be
protected and costs. Prescribed fires
are those fires ignited by park managers to achieve resource management and
fuel treatment objectives. Prescribed
fire activities will include effective communication on prescribed fire activity
in the park and local community and the monitoring programs that provide information
on whether specific objectives are being met. In conformance with the park’s fire management
plan, a systematic decision-making process will be used to determine the most
appropriate management strategies for wildland fires that are no longer meeting
resource management objectives.
4. NPS MANAGEMENT POLICIES
4.1 NPS Management Policies
The NPS policy on fire is
expressed in section 4.5 of Management Policies 2006 and
supplemented by this Director’s Order #18: Wildland Fire Management. Reference Manual
18 (RM-18) is issued by the Associate Director, Visitor and Resource Protection,
and is a technical expression of background information, standardized definitions,
agency requirements, standards, and procedures for implementing Director’s
Each park with burnable vegetation must have an
approved Fire Management Plan that will address the need for adequate funding
and staffing to support its fire management program. Parks having an approved Fire Management Plan and accompanying National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance may utilize wildland fire to achieve
resource benefits in predetermined fire management units. Parks lacking an approved Fire Management Plan
may not use resource benefits as a primary consideration influencing the selection
of a suppression strategy, but they must consider the resource impacts of
suppression alternatives in their decisions.
4.2 Wilderness Policies
NPS policy on fire suppression
conducted in wilderness, including the categories of designated, recommended,
potential, proposed, and wilderness study areas, is expressed in section 6.3.9
of Management Policies 2006. All suppression actions will be consistent with
the “minimum requirement” concept in section 6.3.5 of those policies and the
Wilderness Act of 1964 (codified at 16 U.S.C. §
1133 (c)). The minimum requirement
concept, as expressed in the Wilderness Act, directs:
…[E]xcept as necessary to meet the minimum
requirements for the administration of the area… (including measures required
in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area),
there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment
or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport,
and no structure or installation within any such area. (Wilderness
Act Section 4(c), 1964, 16 U.S. C. § 1133
Actions taken to manage wildland fire in wilderness
using the appropriate minimum requirement concept will be conducted to protect
life and safety and natural and cultural resources and to minimize the lasting
impacts of the management actions and the fires themselves. The potential disruption of wilderness character
and resources will be considered before, and given significantly more weight
than, economic efficiency and convenience. If a compromise of wilderness resources or character
is unavoidable, only those actions that preserve wilderness character and/or
have localized, short-term adverse impacts will be acceptable, unless human
life is threatened (see 5.1.F, below). Any
delegation of authority to incident management teams will convey appropriate
emphasis on the protection of wilderness resources.
5. OPERATIONAL PRINCIPLES, POLICIES, AND PROCEDURES
The NPS will act in accordance with the following
operational principles, policies and procedures.
5.1 Interagency Principles for
the Wildland Fire Policy
April 18, 2005, the National Fire and Aviation Executive Board (NFAEB), comprising
the five Federal Wildland Fire Directors and the National Association of State
Foresters, developed the following guiding principles for the implementation
of the Federal
Wildland Fire Policy.
- Safety: Firefighter and public safety is the first priority. All Fire Management Plans and activities must reflect this commitment.
Management and Ecosystem Sustainability: The full range of fire management activities will be used to achieve
ecosystem sustainability including its interrelated ecological, economic,
and social components.
to Wildland Fire: Fire, as a critical
natural process, will be integrated into land, Resource Management Plans and
activities on a landscape scale, across bureau boundaries. Response to wildland fires is based on ecological,
social, and legal consequences of the fire. The circumstances under which a fire occurs,
and the likely consequences on firefighter and public safety and welfare,
natural and cultural resources, and values to be protected, dictate the appropriate
response to the fire.
of Wildland Fire: Wildland fire
will be used to protect, maintain, and enhance natural and cultural resources
and, as nearly as possible, be allowed to function in its natural ecological
role. Use of fire will be based on approved Fire Management
Plans and will follow specific prescriptions contained in operational plans.
- Rehabilitation and Restoration: Rehabilitation
and restoration efforts will be undertaken to protect and sustain ecosystems,
public health, safety, and to help communities protect infrastructure.
Priorities: The protection
of human life is the single, overriding suppression priority. Setting priorities to protect human communities
and community infrastructure, other property and improvements, and natural
and cultural resources will be done based on human health and safety, the
values to be protected, and the costs of protection. Once people have been committed to an incident,
these human resources become the highest value to be protected.
Interface: The operational roles
of the agencies as partners in the wildland/urban interface are wildland firefighting,
hazard fuels reduction, collaborative planning, cooperative prevention and
education, and technical assistance. Structural fire suppression is the responsibility
of tribal, State, and local governments. Federal wildland fire management agencies may
assist with exterior structural protection activities under formal Fire Protection
Agreements that specify the mutual responsibilities of the partners, including
funding. (Some Federal agencies have
full structural protection authority for their facilities on lands they administer
and may also enter into formal agreements to assist tribes, State and local
governments with full structural protection.)
- Planning: Every area with burnable vegetation must have
an approved Fire Management Plan. Fire
Management Plans are strategic plans that define a program to manage wildland
fires based on the area's approved land management plan. Fire Management Plans must provide for firefighter
and public safety; include fire management strategies, tactics, and alternatives;
address values to be protected and public health issues; and be consistent
with resource management objectives, activities of the area, and environmental
laws and regulations.
- Science: Fire Management Plans and programs will be based
on a foundation of sound science. Research
will support ongoing efforts to increase our scientific knowledge of biological,
physical, and sociological factors. Information needed to support fire management
will be developed through an integrated interagency fire science program.
Scientific results must be made available to
managers in a timely manner and must be used in the development of land management
plans, Fire Management Plans, and implementation plans.
- Preparedness: Agencies will ensure their capability to provide
safe, cost-effective fire management programs in support of land management
plans and resource management plans through appropriate planning, staffing,
training, equipment and management oversight.
- Suppression: Fires will be suppressed at minimum cost, considering
firefighter and public safety, benefits, and values to be protected, and be
consistent with resource objectives.
- Prevention: Agencies will work together with their partners
and other affected groups and individuals to prevent unauthorized ignition
of wildland fires.
- Standardization: Agencies will use compatible planning processes,
funding mechanisms, training and qualification requirements, operational procedures,
values to be protected, methodologies, and public education programs for all
fire management activities.
Cooperation: Fire management planning,
preparedness, prevention, suppression, fire use, restoration and rehabilitation,
monitoring, research, and education will be conducted on an interagency basis
with the involvement of all partners.
and Education: Agencies will enhance
knowledge and understanding of wildland fire management policies and practices
through internal and external communication and education programs. These programs will be continuously improved
through the timely and effective exchange of information among all affected
agencies and organizations.
- Agency Administrator and Employee Roles: Agency administrators will ensure that their
employees are trained, certified and made available to participate in the
wildland fire program locally, regionally, and nationally as the situation
demands. Employees with operational,
administrative, or other skills will support the wildland fire program as
necessary. Agency administrators are
responsible and will be held accountable for making employees available.
- Evaluation: Agencies will develop and implement a systematic
method of evaluation to determine effectiveness of projects through implementation
of the 2001 Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy. The evaluation will assure accountability, facilitate
resolution of areas of conflict, and identify resource shortages and agency
5.2 National Park Service Operational
and Procedural Policies
In addition to the
preceding guiding principles, the NPS has adopted the following operational
and procedural policies.
- NPS fire management activities will be performed in accordance
620 of the Departmental Manual.
Air Operations during wildland fire incidents
will comply with the provisions of Director’s Order/Reference
Manual 60: Aviation Management and Parts 350-354 of
- The Associate Director, Visitor and Resource Protection, will
prepare and issue RM-18 to
help NPS managers and field staffs understand and implement Departmental and
NPS policies applicable to fire management. The reference manual will contain detailed procedures
- The superintendent of each park having burnable vegetation
will ensure that RM-18 is available to serve the needs of management staff
within the park, and will ensure that management staff is adequately versed
in the Departmental and NPS policies and procedures.
- The superintendent of each park will be responsible for complying
with the Agency Administrator roles in the Agency Administrator and Management
Performance Requirements for Fire Operations sections found in the current
version of the Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations.
- The superintendent of each park will integrate fire management
with all other aspects of park management, and will make employees available
for fire assignments during periods of high regional or national fire activity,
while providing for NPS mission priorities.
6. PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
To further implement NPS Management Policies governing fire management activities, and to
comply with the principles, policies, and recommendations of the Interagency Strategy for
Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Policy, June 2003 and Part 620 of the
Departmental Manual, the NPS adopts the following program requirements:
6.1 Safety and Health
The safety of employees
and visitors alike must be of prime concern during fires. Agency administrators at all levels need to
stress that firefighter and public safety always take precedence over property
and resource loss.
Departmental Manual Part 485 and the Code of Federal Regulations Title 29,
all employees have the right to a safe assignment. Furthermore, all employees have the right to turn down unsafe assignments;
they also have the responsibility to identify alternative methods of accomplishing
the mission. All personnel are authorized and obligated to
exercise emergency authority to stop and prevent unsafe acts.
and Health Standards:
- Firefighter and public safety is the first priority in all
fire management activities.
- Fire personnel will meet appropriate qualifications for incident
assignments and prescribed fire as described in the Wildland Fire Qualification System
Guide (PMS 310-1), including
- Fire personnel will comply with National Wildfire Coordinating
Group (NWCG) and NPS fitness and personal protective equipment standards while
assigned to fire incidents. Mutual
aid cooperators, responding to NPS fires under Memoranda of Agreement, will
meet their respective personal protective equipment and qualification standards
during initial action operations. However, during extended operations, cooperators
will meet NWCG equipment and qualification standards.
- Management of all wildland fire incidents will comply with
the current version of the Interagency Standards for Fire
and Fire Aviation Operations.
- A job hazard analysis process will be used for potentially hazardous fire
management activities, and for jobs that require employee use of out-of-the-ordinary
personal protective equipment.
6.2 Interagency Coordination
6.3 Training, Qualifications, and Certification
- All NPS employees assigned dedicated fire program management
responsibilities at the park, regional, or national level will meet established
interagency and NPS competencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities) and concomitant
- The departments of the Interior and Agriculture have implemented
the Interagency Fire Program Management Qualifications
Standards and Guide which established uniform qualification standards
for key positions common to the five Federal wildland fire management agencies
in which interagency qualifications directly or significantly affect employee
- All NPS employees, including emergency firefighters, assigned
to wildland fire management incidents will meet the training and qualification
standards described in the current version of the Interagency Standards for Fire
and Fire Aviation Operations.
- All NPS employees involved in wildland fires will have their
qualification records entered into the database of record as described in
the current version of the Interagency Standards for Fire
and Fire Aviation Operations. Employees
cannot be dispatched through the resource ordering system until they are entered
into this system.
- All wildland fires will be managed by an individual qualified
and certified at the command level appropriate to the complexity level of
- All agency administrators or their delegates are responsible
for verifying and certifying that their employees meet the identified position
Reviews, and Investigations
- After Action Reviews
will be conducted on all wildland fires and fire-related incidents by the
appropriate management level.
- All non-serious and serious
wildland fire accidents, including human entrapments and shelter deployments,
will be reported and investigated. All
wildland fire-related serious accidents, including entrapments and deployments,
will be investigated by an interagency investigation team. Per Departmental Manual
485, Chapter 7, safety and health investigations are not to be used to
fix blame or find fault for disciplinary purposes. Inquiries for the purpose of disciplinary proceedings
will be conducted separately by another investigatory body. Only physical evidence or physical evidence
documentation may be shared. Witness
statements may not be shared.
- The following documents
are key references for conducting wildland fire reviews, investigations, and
serious accident investigations: Interagency Standards
for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations; Investigating Wildland
Fire Entrapments (Missoula Technology and Development Center); Fireline Handbook; Incident Response Pocket
Guide; Interagency Incident Business Management Handbook Chapter 60 Accident Investigation and Reporting; Director’s Order #50B Section
- Fire readiness or preparedness
reviews, utilizing the Interagency Fire
Preparedness Review Guide as adapted for park-specific needs, will
be conducted annually by park fire management staff. Trained regional readiness review teams should
be used to conduct more in-depth park preparedness reviews on a scheduled
6.5 Burned Area
Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation
fires are a major component of the natural ecosystem and provide diversity
and change to wildland communities. While
there is a vulnerable stage to life, property, and infrastructure immediately
after a wildfire, natural recovery should be encouraged wherever possible. If threats to values that need to be protected
are identified, practical application of emergency stabilization treatments
may be appropriate to protect life and property. Non-emergency rehabilitation and restoration
treatments and activities may be appropriate given specific circumstances
of the wildfire where there is a strong scientific basis to justify treatments
6.6 Fire Communication
communication and education is a key component of the NPS Fire Management
Program. A comprehensive, well-planned, and interdisciplinary
communication and education program will be developed and implemented to enhance
understanding of, and public support for, the entire scope of wildland fire
management activities, particularly the role of fire in ecosystems.
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