National Park Service


Date of this Version



Published in Weber, Samantha, and David Harmon, eds. 2008. Rethinking Protected Areas in a Changing World: Proceedings of the 2007 GWS Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society.


During fire management activities, whether that management is suppression or wildland fire use (where natural ignitions are allowed to burn under specific conditions for resource benefit), it is essential that resource concerns are communicated to the incident commander. The most common approach is to assign one or more people from the resource management staff to the incident, in the role of resource advisor(s). The resource advisor provides daily input to the incident commander or his/her designee, often the plans chief, in the development of fire suppression strategies and tactics to minimize or mitigate the expected impacts of fire and fire suppression actions upon natural and cultural resources (NWCG 2004). In this role, the resource advisor advises the incident commander of specific resource values at risk (e.g. threatened and endangered species, cultural sites, paleontological sites), communicates the mitigation measures established in the fire management plan and related documents (such as the finding of no significant impact for the environmental assessment and the biological opinion for endangered species), and may also provide critical geospatial data to the incident geographic information systems (GIS) operation to support the resource protection efforts of the incident. The resource advisor also provides input on behalf of the agency administrator (e.g., park superintendent) in the development of the wildland fire implementation plan and/or wildland fire situation analysis. In large or prolonged incidents, multiple resource advisors may be assigned either concurrently or consecutively to assure that both planning and operational requirements are met for the duration of the incident. In such cases, it may be advantageous to assign a lead resource advisor, who primarily participates in planning, and several additional resource advisors of appropriate disciplines to serve in fire operations (e.g., archaeologists assigned to crews constructing line through sensitive areas or wildlife biologists working with crews in critical habitat).To be most effective as fire incident resource advisors, resource management staff should prepare before fire season by obtaining the appropriate training and fire qualifications, establishing contact procedures either through the fire dispatch system or some other way to assure that the local fire management officer and/or incident commanders know how to reach a resource advisor outside of business hours, summarizing key mitigation requirements into short documents that can be handed to an incoming incident commander, and compiling geospatial data to support the resource information needs of the incident while providing for protection of sensitive datasets.