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Modification of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy Guidance

July 18, 2008

Will a Fire on Federal Land Threaten Your Community?

Fairfax, Va., July 18, 2008... In November 2006, the USDA Office of the Inspector General found that the U.S. Forest Service could strengthen the cost-effectiveness of its firefighting without sacrificing safety by increasing wildland fire use to reduce hazardous accumulations of forest fuels. The current interagency policy guidance established in 2003 may have unnecessarily narrowed the interpretation of the Federal Wildland Fire Policy and restricted the application of a full spectrum of suppression and management strategies commensurate with risk, public and firefighter safety, values to be protected and land-management objectives.

A task group with representation from the IAFC was recently chartered by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group to consider modifying federal wildland-fire policy implementation. This modification would permit greater flexibility and latitude in using a variety of response strategies on federal lands commensurate with:

  • Public and firefighter safety
  • Current and predicted risk
  • Values to be protected
  • Availability of management resources
  • Land management objectives

The proposed modifications, or revised direction, will be implemented on a limited number of field units this summer. They will then be incorporated into a revised Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Policy, expected to be issued in November 2008.

For units not selected as pilot sites for the new guidance, existing guidance will continue to be applied this calendar year. Experience gained in the selected pilot units will be used to draft guidance for national application in 2009.

The federal management policy guidance established in 2003 and these modifications set forth direction for consistent implementation of policy at the operational level for fires located on federal land. This implementation strategy is for federal policy, but it has been developed with tribal, state, county and local cooperators in mind. While some policy will not fit all nonfederal cooperators, the intent is to include everyone by establishing an implementation strategy to help foster the development of a national interagency policy to guide wildland fire operations on federal, state, local or private lands.

Everyone, including local government fire agencies, must recognize that no one entity can do it alone and the collective wildland-fire response efficiency is highly dependent on the readiness of state and local responders. Their participation in the effort to implement policy changes is vital to the success of this change, especially considering the capability of state and local departments to contact and interface with local residents and landowners. Interaction and communication between federal, state and local entities regarding these events should occur early and often and be consistent with local agreements.

The IAFC has been tasked with providing outreach and coordination to those local agencies contiguous to the pilot units. The association highly recommends that its members review their:

  • Operating plans
  • The Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy
  • The cooperative fire protection agreements they have with their state and the federal government

Individuals from the IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee have offered to help members develop and review their fire-protection agreements and operation plans.

Review the Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (pdf) for more information.

To view the Modification of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy Guidance document and a list of the pilot sites, go to the Modification of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy Guidance – Communications Plan (pdf) posted on the IAFC’s website under IAFC Committees > Wildland Fire Policy Committee.

For questions about current wildland fire policy or local cooperative fire-protection agreements, contact:
Todd Clist, IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee Liaison or 703-372-9672