Fire management in wilderness areas
Fire in wilderness is managed to permit lightning-caused fires to play their natural ecological role within wilderness, and to reduce risks and consequences of catastrophic wildfire and of fire escaping from wilderness. Similar to other public lands federal agencies fight fires in wilderness areas when there is a threat to human life and property.
Motorized equipment is allowed in wilderness areas to fight fire in these cases. In describing exceptions to the prohibition of building roads and use of motorized equipment the wilderness act specifically states “such measures may be taken as may be necessary in the control of fire, insects, and diseases.”
Naturally ignited fires may be used and managed as part of wildland fire use in wildernesses that have approved fire management plans, as long as the fire meets and remains within established criteria. Prescribed fires, ignited by qualified personnel, may be used to reduce fuel buildups within wilderness, when approved in fire management plans.
Fire plans for wilderness areas take into account: the historic fire occurrence, the natural role of fire, expected fire behavior, appropriate fire suppression action and acceptable suppression techniques, smoke management, and effects on adjacent landowners and wilderness visitors. ¨Fire suppression crews protect natural and cultural features by using suppression tactics that minimize the lasting evidence of suppression actions.
Motorized equipment is used when essential, water is used instead of fire retardants when possible. Watershed restoration in burned areas is allowed where conditions cause unnatural resource loss or threaten life or property outside wilderness.