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Posts tagged: wildfires

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 »

A ‘Plane’ View about Wildland Firefighters and a New Disney Movie

The U.S. Forest Service partnered with Disney, Ad Council, and the National Association of State Foresters to launch a series of wildfire prevention public service advertisements featuring scenes and characters from the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue. An Educational Activity Book with a teachers’ resource guide is also available.

The U.S. Forest Service partnered with Disney, Ad Council, and the National Association of State Foresters to launch a series of wildfire prevention public service advertisements featuring scenes and characters from the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue. An Educational Activity Book with a teachers’ resource guide is also available.

This week’s opening of Disney’s animated movie, Planes: Fire & Rescue is especially exciting for the U.S. Forest Service because the agency played an important role in the production of the film.

Actually, no Forest Service employees appear in the new comedy-adventure, which features a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting the mythical Piston Peak National Park from wildfire. The agency’s role was an advisory one, giving access to firefighting facilities for Disney animators so that even as a cartoon, the movie has a degree of authenticity. Read more »

Memphis Girl Wins National Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell talks about a drawing by Joyce Qin, the 11-year-old Memphis-area girl who became the 2014 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest winner. Looking on from left to right is Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and Renee Green-Smith, National Information Center manager. (U.S. Forest Service/Dominic Cumberland)

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell talks about a drawing by Joyce Qin, the 11-year-old Memphis-area girl who became the 2014 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest winner. Looking on from left to right is Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and Renee Green-Smith, National Information Center manager. (U.S. Forest Service/Dominic Cumberland)

Joyce Qin has some pretty proud grandparents. They made their first trip from China to Washington, D.C., to watch U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell honor the 11-year-old Memphis-area student as the national winner of the 2014 Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl Poster Contest.

“Joyce competed against 30,000 contestants. This is quite an accomplishment,” Tidwell said as Qin’s grandparents, parents, brother and a host of Forest Service employees looked on. “We use this contest as a tool to convey our messages about preventing wildfires and caring for the land. Through artistry, we have another way to connect people to the importance of water, air and wildlife.” Read more »