Santa Fe’s Wildland Fire Fighters Earn National Recognition

“Highest national honor” recognizes outstanding work in wildfire preparedness and mitigation



Contact: Matt Ross, Public Information, (505) 955-6045, [email protected]


Santa Fe, NM – The National Association of State Foresters, the National Fire Protection Association, the USDA Forest Service and the International Association of Fire Chiefs have chosen the Santa Fe Fire Department’s Wildland Division to receive their highest national honor, a Wildfire Mitigation Award, in recognition of their work to prepare for, mitigate and respond to wildfire both locally in and around Santa Fe, throughout New Mexico, and nationally.

Long recognized as a leader in wildland urban interface firefighting, the Wildland Division does a range of work to protect Santa Fe from the devastating effects of wildfire and share their skills and experience with departments around the country. Thinning acres of fuel-heavy woodland, conducting more than 500 assessments of Fire Hazards on private property, removing 95.41 tons of green waste from at-risk neighborhoods, hosting public meetings, and more in an area known as the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed. That includes parts of the Santa Fe National Forest, Tesuque Pueblo and other BIA sacred land, Hyde State Park and other New Mexico State lands, Santa Fe County public and private lands, and onto The Nature Conservancy and other private properties. Through information exchange, formalized learning networks, and formalized training exchanges, the scope of this mitigation effort continues to expand.
The collaborative efforts of the Wildland Division to share their experience have helped Monte Sereno neighborhood achieve a Firewise designation, and launched mitigation partnerships with the United States Forest Service, the New Mexico State Forestry Division, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tesuque Pueblo, The Nature Conservancy, Forest Stewards Guild, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Pueblo of Pojoaque, City of Santa Fe departments, New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute, and The Wilderness Society.


Nationally, the SFFD has worked with the Fire Learning Network, the FAC Learning Network, and the Community Wildfire Readiness participants through the International Association of Fire Chiefs to share effective mitigation methods.


And although the award is in recognition of these mitigation, education and coalition building efforts, the Santa Fe Wildlands Crews have responded to several major wildfires, including last year’s McClure Fire in the Santa Fe Watershed, the Dog Head Fire in the New Mexico’s Manzano Mountains, and the fires late last year in the Tennessee and North Carolina region.


Mayor Javier M. Gonzales said, “We know this team isn’t in it for the recognition, but they are national leaders in this field and they sure deserve more of it. Through both preparedness and response to actual fires, they’ve worked hard not only to keep this community safe but to help other communities grow safer as well. We couldn’t be prouder of them.”


Santa Fe Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg said, “As one of the only dedicated, full-time Wildland Divisions in the state, we recognized a huge opportunity to be better-prepared for wildfires, and we knew the risk, in a dry high-desert climate, if we weren’t going to be proactive. Our job is to help create a healthier, safer Santa Fe, and this work is a perfect fit for that mission.”

According to the National Association of State Foresters’ website, “the Wildfire Mitigation Award was established in 2014 by the National Association of State Foresters, National Fire Protection Association, USDA Forest Service and the International Association of Fire Chiefs, in response to the need to recognize the large number of great wildfire mitigation programs and projects that are making a difference on the ground in the United States today.  The WMA is the highest national honor one can receive for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation.”


“State forestry agencies see firsthand that it is always wildfire season somewhere in the United States. State Foresters are grateful to the 2017 Wildfire Mitigation Awardees, many of whom are involved in wildfire mitigation efforts year-round. As Americans live with the threat of catastrophic wildfire, it is increasingly important for wildland-urban interface communities to identify and mitigate wildfire risks. The Wildfire Mitigation Awardees illustrate how advanced preparations can help ensure a safer and more rapid response should a wildland fire threaten their community,” said Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester and President of the National Association of State Foresters.


For more information see: http://www.stateforesters.org/mitigation

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