Every park in the National Park System contains cultural resources that can, potentially, be adversely affected by fire. All parks with burnable vegetation develop and maintain Fire Management Plans, and parks with structures follow protocols in Structural Fire Management Plans. Both types of plans outline procedures to follow in the event of a fire.

Cultural resource staff in parks that do not have Wildfire or Structural Fire Plans in place can still take proactive steps to protect cultural resources in the event of fire through:
•    Personal preparedness
•    Park preparedness
•    Response team preparedness

This section provides fire preparedness information for cultural resources staff, fire fighters, and park administration to help them protect cultural resources in the event of a fire. Fire preparedness is an important responsibility throughout the NPS, but it is particularly important in parks that do not have fire plans in place <link to Fire Preparedness Checklist>. Park and regional cultural resource staff ensure that protection of cultural resources during fires are considered by participating in the development of the plans <link to “Planning for Fires.”>

Personal Preparedness: Qualifications for Assisting During Wildfires
Cultural resource staff participate in planning and wildfire incident response as Technical Specialists (CRTS) and Cultural Resource Advisors (READs). To prepare, they complete training for their Incident Qualification card (“red card”) and take the work capacity test. Once qualifications are completed, cultural resource staff coordinate with the Fire Management Program to register in the national deployment system and be added to park contact lists in the event of a fire.

Technical Specialists are personnel with cultural resource expertise. There are no minimum qualifications; Technical Specialists are certified in their field or profession. The minimum qualifications for Cultural Resource Technical Specialists are consistent with the Secretary of the Interiors Professional Qualification Standards for Archeology and Historic Preservation <link to standards (need reference to standards for cultural landscape architects, museum specialists>. The qualifications define minimum education and experience required to perform identification, evaluation, registration, and treatment activities for cultural resources.

Technical Specialists may work in areas away from the fireline during a wildfire, and can assist in protection of cultural resources and monitor activities during mechanical fuel reductions. Technical Specialists who perform office work and advise the Resource Advisor or Planning Section Chief but are not on the fireline do not need to be red card-qualified.

In order to assist on the fire line or during prescribed burns, however, a Technical Specialist must complete training for an Incident Qualification card. The Technical Specialist must successfully complete fire courses S130/190 and pass a physical test outlined in PMS 310-1 Wildland Fire Qualifications System Guide. This “red card” allows cultural resource staff to serve as Cultural Resource Technical Specialists during wildland fires, and monitor during prescribed burns, and to conduct research within active fire perimeters.

The Technical Specialist collects and analyzes cultural resource information to make recommendations to the Resource Advisor or Planning Section Chief. Individuals who do not meet READ standards can collect and compile cultural resource information, but cannot make commendations for the protection or treatment of cultural resources. Recommendations must come from a qualified Cultural Resource Advisor.

Cultural resource staff that play an active role during fire management activities should complete Wildland Fire Resource Advisor (READ) training. The Wildland Fire Resource Advisor (READ) provides input in the fire pre-suppression planning effort, development of wildland fire suppression tactics, and identification of emergency fire rehabilitation needs. An intimate understanding of structural and wildland fire management and cultural resource needs is critical to the position.

Position Qualification Participation
Cultural Resources Technical Specialist Meet Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeology and Historic Preservation fire and cultural resource planning; cultural resource data collection;  assisting with mechanical fuel reductions
Incident Qualification

(“red card”)

Successful completion of S130/190 and work capacity test Assist with prescribed burns; assist on fire lines; conduct research within fire perimeter.
Cultural Resource Advisor Complete certification training  Work within an incident command structure to make recommendations for protection of cultural resources.

(any additions needed for structural fires?)

Park Preparedness: Training Fire Fighters in Cultural Resource Protection
Fire crews are the first responders to fires, and are present during the implementation of prescribed burns, so they have the first opportunity to protect cultural resources. If fire crews are acquainted with the types of cultural resources present within the fire area, they will be in a better position to assist in cultural resource protection by notifying their superiors of discoveries, or minimizing damage when fire suppression activities that may affect cultural resources are unavoidable. Though cultural resources are not their primary responsibility, fire crews may be mobilized before Cultural Resource Specialists and therefore can play in important role in cultural resource protection. Training fire crews to recognize and avoid cultural resources is, therefore, very important.

Waiting until the fire is on the ground is an inappropriate time to educate fire crews about cultural resources. Since park units without fire departments use the nearest fire resources to respond to an incident and for implementing fuels projects, training cooperators and park crews is important. Such training should be accomplished, however, prior to the fire season. Training for cultural resources protection can be added to the cooperative agreements or memoranda of understanding developed with cooperating fire departments.

Training is developed by a qualified cultural resource technical specialist familiar with the park unit. If possible, the cultural resource specialist works with NPS fire management staff to develop a training curriculum that is appropriate to the park unit. Training should include the types actions to be taken when cultural resources are discovered (e.g., redirecting work, modifying suppression techniques) and the appropriate authority to notify when discoveries are made.

The training need not be lengthy and can be added to existing training programs, but it should familiarize fire staff with the range and nature of cultural resources that may be encountered during fires. Training may incorporate photographs, videos, slide shows, physical examples of cultural materials such as archaeological artifacts, and field trips to examine resources that may be difficult to describe or convey in a classroom setting, such as flaked stone scatters and middens. The personal contact between the park cultural resource staff and fire crews during training is a good opportunity to improve working relationships between individuals and between programs.

Response Team Preparedness: Call Lists and Technical Specialist Notifications
Cultural Resource staff should ensure that Cultural Resource Technical Specialists and Advisors are on the list of people to be notified upon the outbreak of a fire or when planning a fuel reduction activity. Notification provides cultural resource staff an opportunity to convey information about sensitive cultural resource locations and recommendations for protection to the Incident Commander, Resource Advisor, or other Incident Command staff.

The State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) should be notified of emergency fire suppression activities as soon as possible after the outbreak of the incident. While the line officer, Incident Commander, Resource Advisor, or Planning Section Chief may make contact, fire personnel are quite busy during initial attacks and mobilization for more extended attacks and the task is usually assigned to the Section 106 Coordinator or to the Resource Manager. It is advantageous to the person assigned to notification to obtain a basic understanding of the fire situation prior to making contact. Notification may take a variety of forms including letter, telephone call, fax, email, or personal visit. The form of communication should be appropriate to the nature and urgency of the fire.

The SHPO should be kept informed of the measures that the park is taking to consider and protect associated cultural resources during fire suppression. This includes anticipated levels of mobilization, organization, staffing, and plans for Cultural Resources Technical Specialist involvement. Such information may not be immediately available, so the SHPO may be first notified of the fire, and consulted during and after plan development. The SHPO may make recommendations that the park should take into account in conducting fire suppression activities regarding the protection of cultural resources.

Where applicable, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) or tribal representative appropriate to the area of the wildfire incident should be notified as soon as possible after the outbreak, and provided with the same information that is given to the SHPO. Indian tribes may value particular resources within the wildfire area and be able to identify the locations of those resources in order to afford them protection during fire suppression actions. Native American groups may have valuable knowledge of the landscape and be able to offer information regarding sources of water, terrain, the location of trails and access roads, and fuel load conditions. The park should take into account the concerns of the Indian Tribes and make a reasonable effort to avoid or protect cultural resources of value to the tribes.

Tribal representatives may serve as Technical Specialists when a wildfire burns on Indian lands or when they meet the qualifications of a Technical Specialist on Federal lands. Park representatives should contact the Tribal representative to determine if a Native American Advisor or Technical Specialist is available, and include those individuals on park call lists. As with other Technical Specialists, Native American advisors must obtain appropriate fire training and pass an endurance test to be present on the fire line.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119