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Dome Fire

Unit Information

Mojave National Preserve
National Park Service
2701 Barstow Road
Barstow, CA 92311

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Challenges for Wildfire Suppression in the 2020 Fire Season

Dome Fire Wildfire
News – 8/21/2020

When the Dome Fire broke on August 15th from lighting, the Mojave National Preserve responded with every available resource they had to contain and suppress this fire. The Preserve has only a small contingent of suppression resources and was supported by the Bureau of Land Management and San Bernardino County Fire. Because of the numerous fires throughout the state, additional resources were limited or experienced long travel times to the location.

During the initial attack, fire personnel experienced extreme and potentially unsafe fire conditions which reduced the ability to implement traditional tactics such as direct attack. Due to passing thunderstorms the fire exhibited rapid runs. The winds shifted from one direction to another causing the head of the fire to continuously change directions. Firefighters were exposed to excessive heat. Additionally, the vegetation was at historic dry levels and ignited easily.

The objectives of wildland firefighting are the protection of life, property and the natural resources. Decisions are made by the fire commanders to utilize strategies and tactics that have the best chance for success while providing for firefighter safety.

Fire personnel had little to no support for additional resources to fulfill objectives. When other large fires occur prior to or simultaneously, the regional fire directors have to make critical decisions regarding which incident will receive fire resources. While currently in a National Preparedness Level of 5, it may be nearly impossible to adequately to support all fires to the ideal requirements. Priority is typically given to fires in areas where a large population and valuable infrastructure are located; wherein the fire has the most probability to rapidly grow to a more challenging size and character, becoming more difficult to control.

With the limited resources on the scene of the Dome Fire and little support confirming arrival, the incident commander and agency managers determined the need to order a Federal Incident Management Team. Teams such as these bring a contingent of highly experienced leadership to provide operational, planning and logistical support. In addition, the teams can improve the ability to order and receive the fire resources needed.

During the current recent fire conditions, fire managers never consider the option of supporting naturally caused fires to burn for resource benefit. This strategy is too risky to control, and it is not conducive to meeting ecological objectives.

As additional fires start and grow exponentially, the fire service is experiencing a 'draw down' in staffing at the national level. Unfortunately, the possibility of quickly containing fire starts may be limited as the season continues to be hot, dry and thunderstorm activity resumes.

Seneca Smith, Public Information Officer - CA Incident Management Team 12