The Forest Service and other federal, tribal, state, and local government agencies work together to respond to tens of thousands of wildfires annually. Each year, an average of more than 73,000 wildfires burn about 7 million acres of federal, tribal, state, and private land and more than 2,600 structures.
Wildland fires are a force of nature that can be nearly as impossible to prevent, and as difficult to control, as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods.
Wildland fire can be a friend and a foe. In the right place at the right time, wildland fire can create many environmental benefits, such as reducing grass, brush, and trees that can fuel large and severe wildfires and improving wildlife habitat. In the wrong place at the wrong time, wildfires can wreak havoc, threatening lives, homes, communities, and natural and cultural resources.
The Forest Service has been managing wildland fire on National Forests and Grasslands for more than 100 years. But the Forest Service doesn’t – and can’t – do it alone. Instead, the agency works closely with other federal, tribal, state, and local partners.
This is more important than ever because over the last few decades, the wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Longer fire seasons; bigger fires and more acres burned on average each year; more extreme fire behavior; and wildfire suppression operations in the Wildland urban Interface (WUI) have become the norm. This is due to a variety of factors, including climate change, buildups of flammable vegetation, insect and disease infestations, nonnative species invasions, and increasing numbers of homes and communities in the WUI. Wildfire suppression has become much more complex and costly as a result.
To address these challenges, the Forest Service and its other federal, tribal, state, and local partners have developed and are implementing a National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy that has three key components: Resilient Landscapes; Fire Adapted Communities; and Safe and Effective Wildfire Response.