California DPA vs. SRA


Can someone please explain the difference between State Responsibility Area and Direct Protection Area?


SRA would be land ownership. So you have BLM, FS, BIA etc… Direct Protection Area (DPA) is who is responsible for protecting said areas. To make things easier for responses state and federal agencies did land swaps for protection. This was done to get rid of the checker board look but lately it seems not to matter for cost reimbursement. That is another whole rabbit hole.


Responsibility area denotes who has jurisdictional responsibility for that area. For example, private is SRA or LRA, Federal land is FRA. It is similar to ownership. From a fire protection concept, that does not always make sense. An extreme example would be a private inholding deep in the forest that is SRA. In order to establish better response, we trade wildland fire response between agencies. These are Direct Protection Areas. Protecting agencies are supposed to represent the interests of the jurisdictional agency of the land they protect.

Short version : RA is who has responsibility for an area legally, DPA is who responds to fires there.


Direct Protection Area (DPA) applies to those agencies that have responsibility for the protection of state or federal lands. These agencies in California are BLM, USFS, BIA, USFWS, NPS and CALFIRE. Throughout California there are large areas of land administered by those agencies. A particular agency (state or federal) may not have adequate fire protection resources in an area to protect their responsibility. That agency will choose to have those lands protected by another agency that does have adequate fire protection resources. The idea behind it is to reduce the duplication of fire suppression resources, thus increasing efficiency (i.e., saving taxpayers money). The agency that has DPA responsibility is responsible for all fire suppression costs within that area.

Another premise of DPA is that the value of the land exchanged between agencies is of equal value. Due to urban development and the increased value of private timber plantations, the value of land has become imbalanced. There are a lot more resources needed to protect private property, thus increasing the cost of fire suppression. It has become increasingly challenging to keep DPA while remaining within each agencies legal authorities.

The agreement that makes DPA possible is called the California Fire Management Agreement (CFMA). The agreement is between the State of California (CALFIRE) and the five federal land management agencies (BLM, BIA, USFS, USFWS, NPS). The agreement is for five years and was just renewed this year. Under the new agreement, there is a concept that is being tested called DPA-IA. The idea behind it is the same as mentioned previously with one change. It applies to the initial attack (IA) of an incident (generally the first 24 hours). After the IA, the responsibility of the incident reverts back to the jurisdictional agency (agency having ownership). It is intended to rebalance the cost of fire suppression in high value areas, while allowing the jurisdictional agency time to get resources in place.

I’m sure this is way more information than you had originally asked for. Often times a simple question turns out to be not so simple. I hope you find the information helpful in understanding a very efficient yet complex system.


If you are involved in wildland fire in California and have not read the CFMA, I highly recommend it. There is good information there. I also suggest, if you work in CALFIRE, USFS, NPS, BLM, FWS, or BIA, getting a hold of your Annual Operating Plan (AOP).

The full name of the CFMA is:
California Master Cooperative Wildland Fire Management and Stafford Act Response Agreement

I guess CMCWFMSARA was too much of a mouthful…


Link to CFMA:


If you want to know where the DPA starts and stops when you are following a going fire, go here.

The CalTopo/SAR Topo guy used to have a DPA layer in his app at my request, but I understand it was a lot of work and it broke sometime in the last couple years and I did not want to bug him to fix it. Usually the DPA in the PDF files is on a section boundary or river or county line or something so I can keep it straight in my head without an actual overlay.