Managing Fire

Top:Aerial view looking down on fire boots and fire below; Bottom:engine, firefighter, and fire in forest.
Managing fire may take different forms depending on a variety of factors.


There are many different ways a wildfire may be managed depending on its location, the time of year, and other factors. A remote fire with little potential to impact human life and property may be managed through aerial observation once every few days, whereas a fire threatening homes or other infrastructure would be fully suppressed. Most fires are somewhere in between - portions may be monitored, while other portions suppressed.

In order to successfully manage fire, it takes a common language across agencies, adequate staffing, and preparation.

Men and women wearing a variety of agency shirts pose in a group.
No matter which agency a team member works for, the common language of the incident command system allows them to work together and be understood by all.


Incident Command System (ICS)

You have to be organized to work in fire because it takes lots of people and equipment from across the country to get the job done. We use the incident command system as a common language and set of practices to help us work together.

Learn more about ICS

Responding to Fire

The National Park Service or in some parks, other agencies that have protection responsibilities, respond to every wildfire that ignites in a national park unit.

Learn more about fire response

Left: Aerial view of dense trees surrounding cabin; right: trees have been thinned.
During summer 2009, NPS firefighters completed a project on Giddings cabin at Onion Portage archeological site in Kobuk Valley National Park. Fire staff created defensible space to protect the cabin and create a safe area for firefighters to work in the event of wildfire.


Wildland-Urban Interface

Oftentimes wildfires start near the homes and places people live and work. The wildland-urban interface (WUI) is a term used to describe a place where vegetation, like trees, shrubs, and grasses grow near human structures, like homes, stores, and offices. It can be a risky place for the firefighters to manage a fire. It takes lots of collaboration between various responders and community members to manage fire in these areas.

Learn more about wildland-urban interface

Smoke Management

Among the many considerations related to wildland fire, smoke management can be very challenging due to health and safety concerns.

Learn more about smoke management

Read stories related to smoke management

Last updated: May 5, 2018