High Desert District

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High Desert District Prescribed Fire & Fuels

For information about planned or existing prescribed fire and fuels projects, please contact the High Desert District fire & fuels specialist for the local field office.

  • Kemmerer Field Office:  Phillip Lockwood, 307-828-4549
  • Pinedale Field Office:  Greg Reser, 307-367-5350
  • Rawlins Field Office:  Chris Otto, 307- 328-4250
  • Rock Springs Field Office:  Michael Barajas, 307-352-0376 


Fuels Treatment Types

Mechanical

The treatments which involve machines to accomplish objectives are essential to the protection of communities, resources and the ecosystem. Mechanical treatments are often most appropriately used in areas in or directly surrounding communities as well as in combination with other types of treatments.

There are two primary ways in which mechanical treatments are utilized in reducing the hazards posed by wildfire: 

  • In forested areas, trees may be thinned to reduce density. The resulting fuels from thinning are often piled and burned using prescribed fire. Thinning activities may also provide an opportunity for biomass utilization.
  • In forested and other areas, the lower tree limbs may be removed to reduce ladder fuel buildup. Ladder fuels, consisting of dense vegetation near the forest floor and extending up the tree, increases the likelihood of fire reaching the crowns of the trees. Crown fires are more intense, harder for firefighters to suppress, burn hotter, faster, and result in more devastating effects. In effort to reduce the potential of crown fires, ladder fuels may be mechanically treated. After mechanical treatments, the fuels may be treated with prescribed fire or undergo biomass utilization (link to biomass section). 

Prescribed Fire

A prescribed fire may be defined as any fire ignited by management actions under certain pre-determined conditions to meet specific objectives related to hazardous fuels reduction or habitat improvement. Proper planning elements are identified and explained in the technically reviewed and approved prescribed fire plan.

The prescribed fire plan is a document which provides the qualified Prescribed Fire Burn Boss the information needed to implement an individual prescribed fire project. NEPA requirements (the basic national law for protection of the environment) must be met prior to ignition. Prescribed fires are ignited and managed within a "window" of very specific conditions including winds, temperatures, humidity, and other factors specified in the prescribed fire plan. This "window" is referred to as the prescription or the measurable criteria that define conditions under which a prescribed fire may be ignited.

The prescription guides the selection of appropriate management responses and indicates other required actions. Prescription criteria may include safety, economic factors, air quality (link to smoke management section), public health, and other environmental, geographic, administrative, social, or legal considerations.

Managing Fire For Multiple Resource Benefits

Fire plays a critical role in wildlands by recycling nutrients, regenerating plants and reducing high concentrations of fuels that contribute to disastrous wildland fires. Land managers recognize the role that wildland fire plays in ecosystems. Through careful planning, naturally occurring fires, such as lightning ignitions, can be managed for resource benefits. One way to accomplish this is by using Fire Use Management Teams (FUMTs) or prescribed fire modules. Human caused fires are never used for resource benefit and are always identified as an unwanted wildland fire to be suppressed using the most cost-effective means to protect lives, property and the environment.

Wildland fire use is the management of naturally ignited wildland fire to accomplish resource management objectives for specific areas. There are three primary objectives for allowing wildland fire use: 

  • Provide for the health and safety of firefighters and the public. 
  • Maintain the natural ecosystems (link to fire adapted ecosystems) of a given area and allow fire to play its natural role in those ecosystems (link to fire adapted ecosystems). 
  • Reduce the risks and consequences of unwanted fire.

Biological/Chemical

Hazardous fuels reduction treatments may also involve biological and/or chemical methods to meet objectives.

A chemical fuels treatment is the application of chemical agents which kill or restrict the growth of existing vegetation. This type of treatment is predominantly used to reduce the distribution of non-native, invasive, and/or exotic species by applying herbicides to a treatment area. Chemical treatments are almost always followed by another treatment such as planting of desired vegetation species.

Another method for treating hazardous fuels is through the use of biological means. A biological fuels treatment involved the use of living organisms to selectively suppress, inhibit or remove herbaceous and woody vegetation. Biological treatments rely on the consumption of plants by animals. Plant eating organisms include insects as well as grazing animals such as cows, goats and sheep.


Contact:  Richard Putnam, HDD Fire Management Specialist
Phone:  307-352-0236  |  Email:  rputnam@blm.gov