Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wildfire Preparedness Raised to Top Level 5 Today

Yesterday the National Interagency Fire Center announced that wildfire preparedness was moved up to Level 5, the highest state of alert. This was due to the high number of large wildfires (greater than 100 acres) scattered across several different regions, and the recent spate of thunderstorms which have ignited more than 1,000 new fires since last Monday. The increased fire activity has stretched national suppression resources to their limits, and the Level 5 rating makes it easier to order up resources from international allies (e.g. Canada, Australia) as well as the National Guard.

Last November at the Third International Fire Ecology and Management Congress, federal fire officials predicted that appropriated funds for federal fire operations would be exhausted by July of this year. While this has not come true yet, it is only a matter of time.

Last year, firefighters labored under Level 5 state for several months, and by default, several fires were managed as Wildland Fire Use (WFU) fires. In general, WFU require fire less crews and cost much less per acre to manage as do suppression fires that aim to assert full perimeter control. Consequently, new advocates for WFU are coming from the strangest places, such as the U.S.D.A. Office of Inspector General.

As fire managers scramble to beg, borrow, or steal crews and equipment to work on all the new fires burning in the West, it is hoped that this season will be another banner year for WFU--the safer, cheaper, and more ecologically appropriate method for managing wildland fires burning in remote, fire-adapted ecosystems.

--Lead Lighter


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