Mon May 13, 2013

Feds Say Tough Wildfire Season Ahead

Another tough wildfire season is in store for the nation due to a dry winter and warmer spring temperatures.

As of May 3rd, nationally 13,115 fires were burning. That’s down from last year by about 5,000 and from two years ago by 10,000.

Still U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says they’re expecting fire activity to pick up leading to a very busy June and July.

“We still have over 40 percent of the continental U.S. in serious to moderate drought conditions. When you combine that with the substantial amount of beetle kill that has occurred in many western states that is a prescription for very serious conditions.”

Vilsack says they are as prepared as they can be. Federal firefighting assets include 13,000 firefighters and 1,600 engines.

But the U.S. Forest Service is also headed into the season with a 7.5 percent cut to its budget  meaning 500 fewer firefighters will be on the ground.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says that’s putting more pressure on homeowners to create buffer zones between their home and forests.

“The people of the United States understands that it’s their responsibility as well to remove fuels from around their house, to clear brush, trees and funnel materials. To learn more about what they can to do to protect their property and the lives of our firefighters and use their assets to the best way possible.”

Community wildfire protection plans are available at "Firewise," and "Ready, Set, Go!"

In 2012 wildfires burned 9.3 million acres nationally and damaged or destroyed 4,400 homes. It was the third highest acreage burned in 50 years.

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