Fire is one of many ecological and cultural processes that affect cultural resources and the contexts in which they are located. Cultural resources are material and non-material representations of contemporary, historic, and prehistoric lifeways. Sites that contain cultural resources and the environment surrounding a resource are the contexts for these artifacts, structures, ceremonies, and other meaningful objects and activities.
Prehistoric and historic cultural resources are nonrenewable resources of many of the environments where wildland fires and prescribed burning occur. The effects of prescribed burning on cultural resources are variableand can be direct or indirect. The extent of fire damage on any cultural resource depends on the source materials, fire behavior, and environmental context, among other factors. The effects of fire on archaeological resources that have been examined include effects on archaeological dating techniques.
Our ability to interpret the significance of a cultural resource is diminished anytime it is altered by fire, therefore cultural resource protection is a crucial component of fire management. Carefully planned prescribed burns can minimize adverse impacts to cultural resources. The effects of wildfires on cultural resources can occur as a result of suppression activities as well as during post-fire restoration. Resource advisors on can advise fire management officers on the location of and measures for protecting cultural resources. Many firefighter courses include some training for managing cultural resources during fires. Fire managers need to be aware of guidelines for protecting cultural resources as well as federal legislation that has been established to protect cultural resources.