Communicating Fire

A ranger speaks to a visitor near a table with pine cones.
Visitors learn about the importance of prescribed fire at an overlook in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

NPS / P. STEVKO

Fire can be a benefit, a threat, a tool, and a force of change on a landscape all at once. Communication is key to understanding the need to allow fire in some places, while excluding it in others; using it as a tool in certain ecosystems, while fully suppressing it in others.

Though many ecosystems in the United States evolved with fire and are fire adapted, the practice of fire suppression and exclusion in the early 20th Century shaped a narrative that fire was not a natural part of the environment and did not belong in it. Today, as more and more homeowners move into the wildland-urban interface, the conversation about fire's place is more vital than ever.

A man in Nomex near an information board talks to a group of visitors.
With the Maple Fire burning in the background, public information officer (PIO) Robert MacGregor answers questions about the role of wildfire in Yellowstone.

NPS/N. HERBERT

Fire is a complex subject, but beginning to understand where fire fits as part of the bigger picture in a park and surrounding ecosystem can be as simple as starting with questions of a park ranger, public information officer (PIO), or other park staff about how wildfire and prescribed fire fit in, or what is currently happening at a park. If they do not have the answers, they can direct you to someone who does. Or, you can contact the national wildland fire program for assistance.

If a wildfire or a prescribed fire is occurring in or very near to a park, there may be an alert posted on the park website warning of dangers, closures, air quality impacts, or the like. Parks use InciWeb - Incident Information System to post updates about wildfires and prescribed fires. In addition, social media sites, such as NPS Fire and Aviation on Facebook and Twitter frequently share fire-related updates. Public information officers, as well as information boards, may be posted at key locations where a fire is visible.

Last updated: July 7, 2018