Fire Management

Fire is a natural part of the Crater Lake ecosystem. However, attitudes and strategies toward fire management in national parks have changed over time. In the early years of the national parks, agency plans advocated for full fire suppression and exclusion. Park managers wanted to detect fires immediately and put them out as quickly as possible.

Over time the National Park Service developed a broader understanding and approach to fire. Fire is now viewed as a key part in a healthy ecosystem, and the National Park Service has developed a variety of tactics by combining fire operations, prescribed fire and fire ecology to maintain fire as a part of the natural ecosystem.

Visit the National Park Service's Fire and Aviation Management website for an in-depth look at operations across the National Park Service.
NPS Type 6 wildland fire engine in front of fire
Fire engines are only one of the tools firefighters can use in managing fire

Tools of the Trade

The National Park Service fire program has evolved from one of suppressing fire to one of managing fire. While suppression remains important, new approaches and technologies are used to provide for better public safety and resource protection.

Fuels Management:
Fuels are removed mechanically or by burning to reduce the number or intensity of fires in an area. This can improve firefighter and public safety and reduce damage to property. During the suppression efforts for the Spruce Lake fire in 2017, Crater Lake National Park used mechanical thinning to create defensible space around the park administration and visitor complexes. Learn how to reduce your home's wlidfire risk.

Fire Suppression:
This remains an important part of fire management. It requires trained wildland firefighters qualified in a number of tasks. They are directed by command staff and supported by others who provide technical, logistical, and administrative assistance. Crater Lake National Park staffs both a structural fire engine and a Type 6 wildland fire engine for park response and support of the national fire effort.

Some fire will always be suppressed (put out). The decision to suppress a fire can be made under a variety of circumstances, including if a fire is burning too close to a developed area or park infrastructure, if the fire started when weather conditions could lead to major fire growth, if the fire has potential to impact private land, or when fire activity is intense nationwide and there are limited firefighting resources available for the park to use. Any human caused fire will be suppressed.

Prescribed Fire:
Under certain conditions and after careful planning, firefighters start and monitor fires that will benefit the ecosystem.Prescribed fire is an important fire management tool. A scientific prescription for each prescribed fire describes specific objectives, fuels, size, and the precise environmental conditions under which it would burn. If the fire moves outside the predetermined area, the fire will be suppressed. The fire may be designed to create a moasic of diverse habitats for plants and animals, to help and endangered species recover, or to reduce fuels near developed or sensetive areas. Prescribed fire can be an effective tool to remove fuels from the path of a future unwanted fire, which in turn will help protect buildings, cultural resources, critical natural resources and habitat. Learm more about all that goes into planning and executing a prescribed fire.
Firefighter monitoring an active fire in the forest
Firefighters will sometimes monitor an active fire for resource objectives.
Firefighters' most important tools are their brains and training. For their safety and that of the public, they must awareness of the constantly changing environment of any fire. Other tools include flame-retardant clothing, hand tools, water pumps, and heavy equipment. Helicopters and airplane are sometimes used to drop chemical fire retardant or water. Many employees of the National Park Service serve a collateral duty firefighters, and it is common to find park rangers, maintenance employees, archeologists and other staff members assigned to fires. Whether using a shovel, rake, or a water-drop, the purpose is to collapse the fire triangle by removing fuel, oxygen, or heat from the fire.

Less than four percent of fire escape initial suppression actions and require additional control efforts. Specially trained interagency teams direct suppression efforts on large fires. Personnel and equipment from federal, state, local, and Tribal agencies can be mobilized quickly and efficiently like a military operation. Fire camps resembling small cities may be set up with showers, meals, and medical facilities for up to 2,000 firefighters. National Park Service employees work alongside firefighters from other agencies in fire management activities across the country.
Wildland fire crew standing on overlook in front of smoke
During large fires, firefighters from across the country will come together to help in fire suppression

Last updated: August 15, 2017

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Mailing Address:

Crater Lake National Park
PO Box 7

Crater Lake , OR 97604


(541) 594-3000

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