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Posts tagged: wildfires

Decrease Wildfire Risks by Choosing the Right Plants

A grass fire burns across eastern Washington.

A grass fire burns across eastern Washington.

Land begins to recover one year after emergency reseeding following the Los Alamos fires in New Mexico. Some of the species planted for erosion control and habitat improvement were prairie junegrass, slender wheatgrass, mountain brome, three awn, gambel's oak and mountain mahogany.

Land begins to recover one year after emergency reseeding following the Los Alamos fires in New Mexico. Some of the species planted for erosion control and habitat improvement were prairie junegrass, slender wheatgrass, mountain brome, three awn, gambel's oak and mountain mahogany.

Traveling at speeds up to 14 mph, wildfires can quickly ravish landscapes and homesteads. Experts with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) are studying what plants can slow fire rather than fuel it.

NRCS’ Plant Materials Centers evaluate and study plants, including those that can reduce fire damage or losses, helping keep people, property and natural resources safe. These centers, located across the United States, can provide information on the type plant best suited for an area given factors such as geography and climate. Read more »

Do YOU Have a Plan to Keep Food Safe during Severe Weather?

This year has been an important reminder that disaster can strike anytime and anyplace.  Nearly every region of the country experienced some form of extreme weather event, including wildfires in California, extreme cold and snow through the Midwest and East, and destructive tornadoes in the South and Central Plains.

All of these events resulted in the loss of power for hundreds of thousands, and without power comes food safety challenges.  The temperature and sanitation of food storage areas is crucial to preventing bacterial growth, and severe weather and other emergencies can compromise this.  Knowing what to do in these instances can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick. Read more »

Seeds for New Book on Wildland-Urban Interface Planted on Fireline

Lincoln Bramwell, Chief Historian, U.S. Forest Service (Courtesy Tim Palmer)

Lincoln Bramwell, Chief Historian, U.S. Forest Service (Courtesy Tim Palmer)

For the better part of a decade, Lincoln Bramwell spent summers fighting wildfires across the West for the U.S. Forest Service. But over the years he spent on the fireline, he began to see his job change in ways that felt more obvious and dangerous.

This is because Bramwell began to see more homes on mountain slopes and ridges. An increasing wildland-urban interface adds challenges further complicated by public demands that firefighters make heroic stands to save houses from approaching wildfires.

What struck Lincoln was how entire subdivisions rolled over the rough mountain landscape nestled into the forest and shielded from view from the main road. And not all of these homes looked new. In fact, from his observations, many seemed quite old. Read more »

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 »

Unleashing Climate Data to Empower America’s Agricultural Sector

Cross-posted from the White House Blog:

Today, in a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative, the Obama administration is inviting leaders of the technology and agricultural sectors to the White House to discuss new collaborative steps to unleash data that will help ensure our food system is resilient to the effects of climate change.

More intense heat waves, heavier downpours, and severe droughts and wildfires out west are already affecting the nation’s ability to produce and transport safe food. The recently released National Climate Assessment makes clear that these kinds of impacts are projected to become more severe over this century. Read more »

Dirt, Fire and Road: My First Season as a Wildland Firefighter

Michaela Hall, a Job Corps alumna, challenged herself to learn firefighting skills as part of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, stationed at Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center on the Davidson River on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service)

Michaela Hall, a Job Corps alumna, challenged herself to learn firefighting skills as part of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, stationed at Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center on the Davidson River on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service)

For the second time, I spilled burn mix on my clothing as I reached to replace a drip torch, a wildland firefighting tool used to ignite fires for controlled burns.

After three days of working with the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, I was getting used to how things worked – except for the drip torch.

I’d spent the first seven years of my career buried behind papers and computers in the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. When I heard of a job to improve firefighting training skills for Job Corps students, I jumped on it. As a Job Corps alumna, and someone who’s still passionate about the program, I felt that I was the perfect candidate. Read more »