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Posts tagged: Fire

Secretary’s Column: Skyrocketing Fire Costs

Spiraling firefighting costs have shrunk the budget for critical forest and rangeland priorities, including investing in Forest Service programs designed to mitigate the impacts of wildfire.

Spiraling firefighting costs have shrunk the budget for critical forest and rangeland priorities, including investing in Forest Service programs designed to mitigate the impacts of wildfire.

Over the past twenty years, a changing climate, population growth near forests and rangelands, and the buildup of brush and other fuels have dramatically increased the severity of wildfires and the damage that they cause to our natural lands and communities. Year after year, fire seasons grow longer and longer, destroying homes, threatening critical infrastructure and the watersheds that provide clean drinking water to millions of people. Between 1980 and 2011, the average annual number of fires on Federal land more than doubled, and the total area burned annually tripled. Even as fire seasons have grown, the way we pay to fight these fires remains unchanged – and fundamentally broken.

The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly increased as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today. As the costs of wildfires have spiraled out of control, it has shrunk the budget of other Forest Service programs, taking millions of dollars from other critical forest health and land management priorities in order to pay for them. What’s more, often the programs we are forced to divert funds from are the very programs which help to mitigate the impact of wildfires. Read more »

Elite Firefighting Team Ready to Protect Lake Tahoe Basin

The Tallac Hotshots are a valuable resource to the Lake Tahoe community by carrying out initial attack for wildfires that occur in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin. (U.S. Forest Service)

The Tallac Hotshots are a valuable resource to the Lake Tahoe community by carrying out initial attack for wildfires that occur in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin. (U.S. Forest Service)

A group of 20 determined firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit completed a demanding and extensive certification process to become the first Interagency Hotshot Crew from Lake Tahoe.  Formerly the Tallac Hand Crew, the Tallac Hotshots join an exclusive group of roughly 2,000 firefighters across the country.

“The certification of the Tallac Hotshots is a significant event for the Lake Tahoe Basin,” said Forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson.  “Fire suppression in the Basin is vital to our communities and it’s reassuring, particularly in light of the anticipated active fire season, to have such a key resource of well-trained and experienced firefighters in our area.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Caring for Our Forests, Protecting Our Families and Our Communities

Over the past several years, we have seen the spread and occurrence of wildfires increase significantly. Deadly wildfires threaten our homes and communities and turn lives upside down.

USDA continues to do all that we can to protect people, homes and our forests in the face of fire. Just this week, we announced four new airtanker additions to the U.S. Forest Service’s next-generation firefighting fleet, which brings the total amount of aircraft to 21 large air tankers (with opportunities to add additional aircraft, if needed) and more than 100 helicopters. These new aircraft will enter service in the coming weeks and support over 10,000 firefighters during this year’s wildfire season. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Helping America’s Farmers Rise to the Challenge of Climate Change

Farmers, ranchers and foresters have long understood the need to care for our land and water—not only because preserving those resources for our children and their children is the right thing to do, but because they know that our farms and forests are more productive and efficient when they’re properly cared for.

Science and technology has expanded our capability and improved our understanding over the years, but this core mission remains the same. Today’s farmers and ranchers have risen to the twin responsibilities of producing safe, affordable food while employing cutting edge conservation practices on their operations to conserve water, minimize runoff, prevent soil erosion, and preserve wildlife habitat. They know that this will only become more critical as we take on the challenges of feeding a growing global population and dealing with the impacts of a changing climate. Read more »

How do You Prepare for this Year’s Fire Season? Tune in Friday with #PrepareAthon!

Prepare your home and family for wildfire season.

Prepare your home and family for wildfire season. Click to enlarge or download.

With yet another busy fire season around the corner, the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and the U.S. Fire Administration decided to take to social media and talk about America’s PrepareAthon!, which is a nationwide, community-based campaign for action to increase emergency preparedness and resilience through hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises conducted at the national level every fall and spring.  Wildfire experts will be ready to answer any questions that range from how to help protect your home from wildfire to what the wildfire season forecast looks like this year.

Drought conditions in the West, especially in California, combined with other factors portend a dangerous fire season that now could start at any time.  Last year, 34 wildland firefighters died in the line of duty as fire ravaged 4.1 million acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes around the Nation. This year the U.S. Forest Service has more than 10,000 firefighters who stand ready as well as aircraft and engines deployed around the country.  Should that call be received, these firefighters and the tools that they use are ready to spring into action. Read more »

Everybody Talks About the Weather…

A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

The climate statistics for the first month of 2014 have been impressive. Extreme weather has lashed the United States from Alaska to Florida with record warmth, cold, dry and wet conditions all at the same time. The National Climatic Data Center reports that January of 2014 was the driest January on record for New Mexico, 2nd driest for Arizona and 3rd driest for California. January 2014 was also in the top ten of coldest Januaries on record for much of the upper Midwest.

Extreme drought conditions in the western U.S. are dramatically impacting water supplies critical to agriculture and elevating fire risk across our National Forests. Across the continent frequent cold waves have repeatedly threatened winter crops across the Southeast while frost depths reaching several feet will impact springtime planting across the Midwest. This kind of winter gets everyone talking about the weather.  It brings to mind the quote “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” often attributed to Mark Twain (but apparently said by a friend). Read more »