Keeping Good Company: A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and CAL FIRE Partnership, Part 2

CAL FIRE-San Diego County Fire Authority Station

The USFWS is co-located at the CAL FIRE-San Diego County Fire Authority station. Photo by USFWS. 


One of the strongest, most active partnerships between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is through the San Diego Unit in the Southern California Fire Management Zone. It is co-located in a state-of-the-art CAL FIRE-San Diego County Fire Authority station.

Prior to the fire season, staff work together to share policies, guidance, and habitat protection measures. They also provide interagency training.

When a wildfire begins, the USFWS and CAL FIRE respond with the closest available resources. Personnel from both agencies work together to rapidly suppress fires likely to impact communities and sensitive habits. Their operating plan allows USFWS personnel to serve as initial attack incident commanders on CAL FIRE incidents. Similarly, CAL FIRE chief officers, hand crews, and engines, if first on scene, will assume command and suppress wildfire on USFWS-managed lands.

This partnership also allows USFWS Southern California Zone and San Diego Unit crews, alongside CAL FIRE, to support community defense projects. They often include work in the wildland urban interface across lands managed by different agencies to create fuel breaks, a gap in vegetation that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a future wildfire.

This partnership in preparing for and responding to wildfires across federal and state lands in southern California highlights the interagency nature of wildland fire management. When agencies craft response plans together, share resources, and work alongside one another, their response to wildland fires that threaten communities or important ecosystems is more rapid and effective.

Kari Cobb is the public affairs officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the National Interagency Fire Center.