Photo Information

A firefighter feeds a prescribed burn in the Juliet Training Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 23.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez

Pendleton fire department uses prescribed burns to help environment, prevent wildfires

26 May 2020 | Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Residents of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and the surrounding communities most likely saw smoke rising over the hills Pendleton during Memorial Day weekend. But the smoke wasn't a cause for concern, it was a sign Camp Pendleton officials were hard at work protecting the base and its environment.

The Camp Pendleton Fire Department worked with the base's Environmental Security office to conduct prescribed burns to clear out dense vegetation to help endangered wildlife and help prevent or control the spread of wildfires during the upcoming fire season.

“The kangaroo rat is listed on the endangered species list and falls under the Endangered Species Act,” said Alisa Zych, the resource management branch head for Environmental Security. “All the annual non-native grasses that were created over the years makes it difficult for this species to thrive.”

Environmental Security works with the Camp Pendleton Fire Department and keeps the prescribed fires on a four to five year rotation.

 “We have a good working relationship with the fire department. This fire is not only for the mouse but it helps reduce the fuel load of a wildfire.” Alisa Zych, Environmental Security resource management branch head

Over the course of Memorial Day weekend, the fire department will burn about 50 acres of dense vegetation to protect and increase the habit of the Kangaroo mouse. The fire department will burn another 600 acres next weekend to help the Pacific pocket mouse habitat.

“This is a benefit to environmental, but also a fuel reduction,” said Jeff Cunliffe-Owen, an assistant chief with the Camp Pendleton Fire Department. “This just lets us make one more buffer to keep a fire contained to the installation.”

Marines are constantly training and fires regularly break out due to training exercises. Many fires are contained and controlled because of the precautions that are taken every year by the fire department.

“Before every burn we make a plan that is roughly 50 pages long,” said Cunliffe-Owen. “Things are looking good and we continue to support in every way we can.”