Puget Sound Ecological Fire Program 2014 Summary Report

A diverse mosaic of fire dependent prairies once dominated the south Puget Sound region and was scattered throughout the rest of lowland Washington. The prairies were interspersed with coniferous and deciduous woodlands and wetlands. Lack of managed fire during the past 150 years has contributed to significant habitat loss and impact to native species. Regional habitat and rare species management planning has identified integrated use of fire as a cornerstone for regional prairie restoration.

Unable to rely on existing local fire suppression resources to support ecological burns at the needed scale, conservation partners involved in the collaborative prairie and oak restoration program in Puget Sound have implemented a partner-driven prescribed ecological burn program with capacity to accomplish burning at the landscape level. 2014 marks our seventh burn season since we scaled up our burn operations. Prior to 2008, we were only conducting one to two burns annually. Since that time, our partnership has greatly increased burning capacity.

2014 was exceptional year operationally, though it was marked by some permitting challenges off of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Ideal burning conditions for much of the summer and an increase in equipment and trained firefighters allowed us to complete 90 burn units totaling more than 2500 acres on eleven different properties in South Puget Sound. Based on the number of operational burn shifts (though not total acres), we continue to be the most active burn program in the state. Primary land managing burn 
partners include Joint Base Lewis-McChord, 
Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources, Wolf Haven, Center for Natural Lands Management and Thurston County as well as Pacific Rim Institute and Whidbey Camano Land Trust in North Puget Sound.