Fighting fire with fire: AFCEC program combats increasing wildland fire risk Published March 22, 2022 By Mollie Miller AFIMSC Public Affairs JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – With the first flames of the 2022 wildfire season already appearing in places like Florida, California and Kansas, Air Force wildland fire teams nationwide are busy fighting fire with fire for continued mission success. Melcolm Crutchfield, U.S. Fish and Wildlife seasonal firefighter, begins a prescribed burn on Barksdale East Reservation, Louisiana, Jan. 28. Approximately 400 acres of Barksdale woods were part of the burn to help clear underbrush before warmer seasons bring increased risk of wildfires. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Chase Sullivan) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res “The most important thing we do to protect Air Force installations and communities and allow missions to continue unimpeded is prescribed burning,” said Brett Williams, Eglin AFB Wildland Support Module lead. “We respond to 50-60 wildfires on Eglin every year and you rarely hear about these fires on the news because we have been so aggressive with our application of prescribed burns. When a fire does start, it is easy to manage with no risk to the installation or the community.” Matt Johnson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife fire management specialist, completes a perimeter check during a prescribed burn at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Jan. 28. Every 30 minutes fire management specialists check wind direction, temperature and walk perimeters to maintain control over the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Chase Sullivan) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res The Wildland Fire Branch responds to hundreds of fires every year, said Bradley Shoemaker, Wildland Fire Branch chief. He said 2021 was an especially active wildfire season with 187 recorded fires on Air Force property. Those fires burned more than 56,000 acres, a number that could have been much higher without the use of wildfire threat mitigation tools like prescribed burns. “The (prescribed burn) process applies fire to the landscape and creates resilient ecosystems that can withstand fire while also reducing the intensity of fires that burn in those areas, making them easier to suppress when we have an unwanted ignition,” he said. Predicting what the 2022 Wildfire Season might look like is one of the more difficult aspects of wildland fire management, Shoemaker said, because different ecosystems and rapidly changing conditions can alter the course of the season in a matter of moments. Although the future remains a bit unknown, the chief said off-season burns have put suppression resources including Fire and Emergency Services and his teams in a good place to respond and control whatever the 2022 Wildfire Season brings. "Prescribed burning is the best tool we have to create sustainable lands while reducing the unavoidable threat of wildfires,” he said.