Wildfire Preparedness

Release Date: Jul 28, 2021

Contact(s): Peter Fargo, 541-523-1231

BAKER CITY, Ore. (July 28, 2021) – By now you have probably seen Smokey Bear pointing to Extreme Fire Danger on our Facebook page or on the way into the National Forest. If you are wondering what is behind this summer’s extraordinary fire danger, please watch our recent webinar.

You may have also heard about the elevated Preparedness Levels set by the agencies involved in the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise. The five Preparedness Levels (PLs) range from the lowest (1) to the highest (5), and they are driven by fuel and weather conditions, fire activity, and the availability of fire suppression resources. 

Each PL includes specific management actions and involves increasing levels of interagency resource coordination and commitment. For example, as PLs rise so does the demand for Incident Management Teams (IMTs) and suppression resources, which include wildland fire personnel, engines, helicopters, airtankers and other aircraft, and specialized heavy equipment, such as bulldozers.

The United States moved to PL5 on July 14, 2021 to reflect the demands of large wildfires burning across the West. 


With most of the nation’s firefighting resources committed to current incidents, and Forest Service resources deploying both regionally and nationally, it is fair to ask the question: Is the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest prepared for new fire starts here at home? 

Yes, we are. There is a local, regional, and national system in place to guide “Drawdown” – which is the predetermined number and type of wildfire resources that are needed to maintain initial attack (IA) capability in our local or geographic area. Drawdown resources are considered unavailable for incidents outside the area for which they have been reserved. We develop drawdown plans in the spring, then during the summer we revisit those plans weekly and adapt them as needs and conditions change.

To meet the challenge of Extreme Fire Danger over an extended period of time, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has retained initial attack resources and personnel on each of our three Ranger Districts. We have prioritized these resources for efficient responses to newly detected wildfires. Experience has shown us that the current dry and highly combustible vegetation is resistant to suppression, so we have taken the additional step to contract more resources (3 bulldozers, 2 water tenders, and 3 fire engines) to improve the likelihood of suppression success.

While new fires within the Wallowa-Whitman boundaries are the top priority for our initial attack resources, we also send those resources where the fires are burning. We share resources regionally with public lands partners in northeast Oregon, southeast Washington, and western Idaho. For example, Wallowa-Whitman crews supported the Lick Creek and Green Ridge Fires on the Umatilla National Forest. They returned home from those incidents, and then some redeployed to the Elbow Creek Fire in Wallowa County. 

It is a weekly, and sometimes daily, balancing act to maintain readiness locally while helping our neighbors with current incidents. While local firefighters are working hard to protect life and property during this record-breaking season, they are counting on all of us to do our part too. To prevent the next human-caused wildfire, please follow the current fire restrictions and share them with your friends and family. 

To learn more about the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, please visit our website at www.fs.usda.gov/wallowa-whitman.


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