Audit Report: DOE-OIG-20-32

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March 4, 2020

The Department of Energy’s Wildland Fire Prevention Efforts at the Oak Ridge Reservation

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Reservation (Reservation) consists of approximately 32,000 acres that encompasses three major Department complexes: East Tennessee Technology Park, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Y-12 National Security Complex.  With mission-related assets estimated at over $10 billion, these complexes are managed by three different program offices and are operated by different prime contractors.  We initiated this audit to determine whether the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Site Office’s Reservation Management Branch (Reservation Management), formerly under the Oak Ridge Office, was taking necessary actions to identify and mitigate possible hazards associated with the impacts of wildland fire.

We found that Reservation Management had taken some actions to identify and mitigate possible hazards associated with the impacts of wildland fire.  However, Reservation Management had not yet fully implemented preparedness and prevention activities designed to reduce the impact from wildland fire.  Specifically, we found that Reservation boundaries were not being enforced in areas where Reservation property borders residential developments and residential homeowners were potentially encroaching on Reservation property.  In addition, fire roads necessary for establishing fire breaks and providing access for firefighters and equipment had not been maintained as required by the Reservation’s Wildland Fire Management Program and roads and grounds maintenance contract.  Further, mitigation activities such as prescribed burns and thinning of forested areas were not yet fully implemented in all areas where the need for fuel reduction had been identified by Reservation Management.

The issues we identified occurred, in part, due to complexities associated with obtaining funding for site-wide activities that support wildland fire management.  In addition, a lack of Federal oversight added to the difficulties of implementing the Reservation’s Wildland Fire Management Program.  Further, the issues identified occurred because wildland fire risks for the Reservation as a whole had not been assessed to ensure it is adequately protected from a wildland fire event.

Management agreed with our recommendations and proposed corrective actions are consistent with our recommendations. 

Topic: Management and Administration