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Wildfire Prevention Program

The program is part of the Division of Wildfire Management’s efforts to educate Tribal communities about the risks of wildfires.

The mission of the Wildfire Prevention Program is to reduce the frequency of human-caused wildfires across Indian Country.

Human-caused fires are the greatest cause of wildfires in Indian Country. Statistics show intentionally started human-caused wildfires have the highest frequency of all causes. As a result, in 2002 the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) initiated an aggressive Wildfire Prevention Program to address human-caused fires.

Preventing wildfires is everyone’s responsibility, from the casual user of natural resources to federal agency administrators, from Tribal leaders to land managers. Wildfire prevention is a part of BIA’s basic trust responsibility and must be performed regardless of funding availability. To be successful, wildfire prevention must be proactive, and managers must first understand the primary causes of wildfires and their underlying issues. Through education, enforcement, engineering, and administrative actions, it is possible to reduce human-caused wildfires.

BIA’s wildfire prevention program focuses on educating individuals and communities on how to prevent unwanted human-caused fires. This is done through school programs, events, media, patrols, inspections, and other prevention strategies.  

Although there are several Indian Country wildfire prevention approaches, three program-specific examples include:

The goal of this community-focused fire intervention program is to teach youth, who misuse fire or who have started dangerous and unsupervised fires, fire responsibility. In the program, they learn how to be proactive in protecting their family, tribal community, and natural resources from wildfire. The program uses a multi-disciplinary coalition and restorative justice driven fire prevention, safety, and survival curriculum approach to address the needs of the youth involved.

It is BIA policy to determine the origin and cause of all wildfires occurring on Indian Lands. Wildfire investigations are conducted when there is potential for a wildfire to result in tort claims, damages to tribal resources and trespass damage recovery, litigation, or when arson is a possibility.

  • WeTip

WeTip is a national non-profit organization that offers a 24/7 telephone tip hotline (1-800-472-7766) for people who have information about arson and want to make an anonymous report. A financial reward is available to those who provide information that leads to proper adjudication of criminal activity associated with wildfires.

Regional Contacts

BIA Alaska, Northwest, and Pacific Regions
Bureau of Indian Affairs
911 NE 11th Ave.
Portland, OR 97232
503-231-6806

BIA Eastern Oklahoma and Southern Plains Regions  
patrick.mcdowell@bia.gov
580-768-9031

BIA Rocky Mountain and Great Plains Regions  
Bureau of Indian Affairs 
2021 4th Ave N
Billings, MT 59101
406-247-7949

BIA Navajo, Southwest and Western Regions
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Forestry 100 Indian School Road. NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
505-563-3375

BIA Midwest and Eastern Regions  
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Wildfire Prevention Officer
1415 East Green Bay St., Suite 181
Shawano, WI 54166
715-526-7075

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Facts by the Numbers

  • From 2001 to 2010, Indian Country experienced an annual average of 4,840 human-caused wildfires. 
  • From 2011 to 2020, Indian Country experienced an annual average of 3,678 human-caused wildfires indicating the positive effect of the implemented Wildfire Prevention Programs. 
  • BIA has 40 funded Wildfire Prevention Programs serving 175 Tribes nationally. 
  • 1,239 communities have been included in Indian Country Community Wildfire Protection Plans or equivalent, which guides the communities on prevention strategies to reduce the risk of wildfires.

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