Review of Laws and
Site Fire Management
Wildfire Planning
Prescribed Burn Plan
Measures and
  Wildfire Response Plan

The purpose of a Wildfire Plan is to ensure safety of staff, volunteers and visitors to Conservancy property in the event of wildfire, and to prepare the property for reduced wildfire impacts to natural and cultural resources and to infrastructure and facilities. Where the Conservancy is proactively burning our property, a Wildfire Plan may be helpful in supporting effective emergency response by authorities.

It is a Conservancy Fire Management Requirement that all wildfires are reported and responsibility turned over to the appropriate fire control agency. See Wildfire Reporting.

A Wildfire Response Plan describes how to prepare for and respond to wildfires on or adjacent to TNC lands. In some respects wildfire planning is more important than prescribed fire planning because of the extensive damage that may occur from extreme fire behavior, damage from heavy equipment used during suppression, and the increasing safety concerns from ever larger wildfires. It is also important to plan for wildfires for good community relations. Large landholdings of flammable fuels may present a risk to neighboring landowners. It is our responsibility as good neighbors to plan for wildfires and work with community firefighters to reduce risk when possible.

A common question regarding wildfires is whether TNC ever manages a naturally-ignited wildfire as a prescribed burn. The answer is rarely. In large remote wilderness areas, naturally-ignited fire may be an important means of accomplishing wilderness management goals. There may be a few instances where naturally-ignited fires can be allowed to burn on TNC lands, as long as they are burning within a pre-approved burn plan. This is most likely to be appropriate when TNC owns land near or within a large federal landholding and resources are available to monitor the fire.

State laws governing prescribed burning will determine whether naturally-ignited fires can be managed to meet ecological management goals on our property, and the process for permitting or controlling those fires. Generally, all wildfires, regardless of origin, must be reported immediately and responsibility turned over to the appropriate fire control agency. How the wildfire is managed on our property is at the discretion of that agency. If we would like the fire control agency to consider the ecological benefits of a wildfire and manage it to minimize impacts to natural features of our property, then specific objectives must be negotiated with fire control agencies or fire departments.

Wildfire Planning Requirements and Updates

A Wildfire Plan is helpful at all sites at which the Conservancy engages in fire management, and strongly recommended for sites where there is flammable vegetation and strong potential for large or damaging wildfires. Updates should be frequent enough to reflect changes in personnel both within TNC and within the local fire control agencies. It is strongly recommended that Wildfire Plans include input and review from adjacent landowners and fire control authorities. The Plan is typically an independent document that can be included as an addendum to or referenced in a Site Fire Management Plan or a Prescribed Burn Plan.

What are the Components of a Wildfire Plan?

There is no standard format for this plan. It should be brief (1-5 pages) but include enough information so that it can be used as a communications tool with the local authorities. Groups of similar sites in a common geography can be planned for together.

Typically, key components include:

  • the location of the site
  • a physical description of the site (fuels, topography, fire-sensitive areas, etc.)
  • the location of fire sensitive features, natural or man-made
  • a narrative of the procedure to be followed in the event of a wildfire (e.g. notification, evacuation, suppression action)
  • identification of the fire control agency responsible for suppression in the area (e.g. volunteer fire department, state forestry agency), with contact phone numbers
  • list of Nature Conservancy staff to be contacted in case of wildfire, with phone numbers
  • information concerning any cooperative agreement with multiple landowners or agencies
  • communications procedures, including radio frequencies of responding agencies
  • list of any TNC resources which may be available to firefighters
  • regular fire-proofing treatments to consider around buildings or other structures
  • maps identifying
    • roads into and on the site, and access gates
    • natural features that could be used as firebreaks, such as streams, lakes, or changes in fuel types
    • ecologically sensitive areas to be avoided by response vehicles
    • wet or low-lying areas where response vehicles may get mired
    • water sources
    • location of flammable fuels or hazardous materials storage

Where is a Wildfire Plan Filed?

A copy should be kept in a readily-accessible area of the local TNC office, and any additional offices to which a wildfire might be reported. You should also meet with local fire control officials to give them a copy of the Wildfire Response Plan and discuss its implementation.

It is important to instruct all staff about proper wildfire response. The person who receives a telephone call notifying the Conservancy of a fire on its preserve may be unfamiliar with fire management, and cause delay or confusion through an inappropriate response. Be sure that everyone understands the notification process for contacting fire control authorities and the appropriate Conservancy staff.

Develop a Relationship with the Local Fire Control Agency

Foremost in wildfire planning is developing close and effective liaisons with local and state fire control agencies and officials. Get to know the fire control officials likely to respond to a fire in your area. Invite them to visit the site for a tour and discussion of sensitive areas, access points, and roads. Once suppression resources are deployed, fire officials may or may not be cooperative, but the potential benefits of collaboration are great. It may make the difference between a fire plow staying along the boundary of a preserve rather than going through its center. When fires threaten people, livestock or buildings, fire officials cannot be expected to place ecosystem damage above other considerations. But even in threatening situations there may be some room for flexibility in response. Cooperation is most likely if you work to help fire officials accomplish their objectives while not compromising those of the Conservancy. Wildfire planning may also help reduce the occurrence of fire, increase the efficiency of fire control, and help avoid high expenditures of funds to cover damages and suppression.

If you are concerned that local fire control personnel do not have sufficient experience in dealing with wildland fire, it may be useful to conduct a joint training session. The session might include a review of communications procedures, agency and Conservancy equipment, practice with hoselays, and suppression exercises. Even with experienced personnel, an annual joint refresher is a good way to build a relationship between the two groups.

Example: Moab Wildfire Response Plan

Example: Wisconsin Wildfire Response Plan

Last updated July 20, 2017.

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