Federal partners continue to support state and local partners as they fight wildfires

USDA, DOI, FEMA continue to provide firefighters, aircraft, and federal grants to support local partners combating fires, 4 airtankers, 450 firefighters supporting Waldo Canyon effort in Colorado

Last edited 09/05/2019

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2012 – Federal partners are continuing to work closely with first responders and firefighters from local, state, and tribal agencies to combat and monitor large wildfires throughout the West including those in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

As of today, more than 450 federal, state and local firefighters and four heavy airtankers are fighting the most recent major outbreak, the aggressive Waldo Canyon fire in the hillsides west of Colorado Springs, Colo.

An additional two C-130 aircraft fitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems will be operating in the next day from Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs.

“As we continue this fight, we've been able to fill every single order for more firefighters and aircraft to ensure we have everything we need to contain this fire,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Our hundreds of brave men and women on the front line are battling dry conditions, a lack of snowpack, excessive dead trees, hot weather and complex terrain to try to get this fire and others throughout the west under control.”

The fire has consumed more than 3,600 acres of forested land since Saturday. With low humidity, high winds and temperatures in the 90s forecast for Monday, the situation remains challenging as firefighters work in what is described as very difficult terrain. The Waldo Canyon fire stretches in three directions across very dry forests.

Approximately 1,400 Forest Service personnel and 29 engines are currently assigned to the Rocky Mountain region, with the majority of those resources staged in Colorado. An additional 500 firefighters are assigned to Colorado from the Department of the Interior.

Through the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates resources from the US Forest Service, the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, firefighters, incident management teams, airtankers, helicopters, fire engines and other resources are being provided to supplement state and local resources as teams continue to respond to fires across the West.

Yesterday, FEMA approved Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs) that authorize the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Waldo Canyon Fire in El Paso County, Colorado; the Weber Fire in Montezuma County, Colorado; and the Hollow Fire in Sanpete County, Utah. An FMAG makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs for managing, mitigating and controlling the fire. These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.

On June 6, FEMA approved a FMAG for the High Park Fire in Larimer County, Colorado, and on June 22 approved a FMAG for the Eagle Mountain/Dump Fire in Utah County, Utah.

FMAGs are provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. Eligible items can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.

The Western fire season is now, on average, 78 days longer than in the mid-1980s. Cumulative drought, a changing climate, extensive insect kill in western forests, and regional shifts of population into the wildland urban interface have resulted in an increased level of wildfire activity that is expected to continue into the future.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior, in partnerships with states and local partners, have developed a cohesive strategy to respond to these trends by focusing on:

  • Restoring and maintaining resilient landscapes. Through forest restoration activities such as mechanical thinning and controlled burns, officials can make forests healthier and less susceptible to catastrophic fire.
  • Creating fire-adapted communities. The Forest Service and its partners are working with communities to reduce fire hazards around houses to make them more resistant to wildfire threats.
  • Responding to Wildfires. This element considers the full spectrum of fire management activities and recognizes the differences in missions among local, state, tribal and Federal agencies.

On average the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior bureaus respond to more than 20,000 wildfires per year. Federal firefighters, aircraft, and ground equipment are strategically assigned to parts of the country as the fire season shifts across the nation. Firefighting experts will continuously monitor conditions and move these assets as necessary to be best positioned and increase initial attack capabilities. In addition, federal agencies are conducting accelerated restoration activities nationwide aimed at healthier forests and reduced fire risks in the years to come.

Federal land managers are also helping communities prepare for wildfire. Federal partnerships with tribal, state, and local agencies strengthen preparedness programs, such as Firewise http://www.firewise.org/ and Ready Set Go! http://www.iafc.org/readySetGo that help families and communities prepare for and survive wildfire. You can also visit FEMA's Ready.gov http://www.ready.gov, to learn more about steps you and your family can take now to be prepared for an emergency.

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