Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently outlined the federal government’s readiness for the wildland fire season to ensure protection for communities and restoration of forests and public lands across the country.
The Secretaries described federal capability to respond to wildfires that are becoming more complex, particularly in areas where urban populations are situated near forested and rangeland areas. Firefighting capabilities are available to handle the fire season, they declared, with more than 15,000 firefighters available in 2012, including permanent and seasonal federal and state employees, crews from tribal and local governments, contract crews, and temporary hires.
“We are ready to meet the challenge,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy provides a strong, new blueprint to ensure community safety and the restoration of ecosystems to benefit all Americans, especially those who live in the urban-wildland interface areas. Our concern does not stop at the border of federal lands, but rather a strategy that is an all-lands approach for safety and wildfire management.”
On average the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior bureaus respond to more than 20,000 wildfires per year, suppressing all but a small percentage of them on initial attack.