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National Preparedness for Wildfires Moved to Highest Level
Widespread Catastrophic Wildfires Prompt Federal Government to Raise Level
Posted by Mallory Micetich on August 23, 2013
This week the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group raised the National Preparedness Level to 5, its highest level indicating high fire activity with increasing threats. The last time the National Preparedness Level was raised to 5 was July 1, 2008 and remained at this highest level for 22 days.  A raised preparedness level indicates a high degree of wildfire activity, a major commitment of fire resources and the probability that severe conditions will continue for at least a few days.

This announcement comes as news outlets across the country report that the federal government is running out of funds to fight wildfires.   

"As the cost of fighting fires keeps rising, the effort is diverting funds from other forest management programs designed to reduce fire risk. And experts say the economic damage is being vastly underestimated in the initial headline numbers for the fires raging through an area out West that is the size of Rhode Island." John Schoen, "Cost of Western blazes spreads like wildfire" NBC News

"The nation's top wildfire-fighting agency was down to $50 million after spending $967 million so far this year, Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said Wednesday in an email. Chambers says the $50 million the Forest Service has left is typically enough to pay for just a few days of fighting fires when the nation is at its top wildfire preparedness level, which went into effect Tuesday. There are 51 large uncontained fires burning across the nation, making it tough to meet demands for fire crews and equipment."  AP, "Feds running out of money to fight wildfires"

While this year’s fire season has so far seen only 60% of the 10-year average of acres burned, a significant amount of wildfire activity, is currently occurring in several parts of the Western United States. Despite the progress of first responders, firefighters, National Guard and Department of Defense much can still be done to prevent damaging wildfires. 

It is possible to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire through proactive, healthy forest management and reduction of hazardous fuels. Unnatural, overgrown and unhealthy forests increase the risk of wildfire. Active forest management helps protect and restore forests.

Last year, wildfires burned 9.3 million acres, while the U.S. Forest Service only harvested approximately 200,000 acres. This means that 44 times as many acres burned as were responsibility harvested. The burned areas were not allowed to be salvaged.

To learn more about wildfires and committee action click here.

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