Thanks Firefighters, First Responders, Volunteers; Urges Continued Vigilance in face of Challenging Wildfire Season Outlook
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today visited Colorado Springs where he saw first-hand the wildfire response efforts, and thanked firefighters, first responders and volunteers for their efforts to battle the fires and support the communities that have been impacted.
Secretary Salazar attended a briefing with Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, Incident Commander Troy Nelson, and Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team Leader Marc Stamer regarding the federal, state and local response to the Waldo Canyon Fire. Salazar then toured the Mountain Shadows subdivision where he met with members of the BAER team who are on site to assess damage.
“The men and women who battled this fire and the people of Colorado Springs are to be commended for their efforts and courage in the face of such devastation,” said Secretary Salazar. “As we begin to transition to a rebuilding phase of the wildfire response, the federal family will continue to bring all the resources and support we have to bear to ensure that Colorado Springs has what it takes to get the job done and get the community back on its feet.”
Currently, there are about 400 personnel supporting the Waldo Canyon Fire. At its peak, there were over 1,500 firefighters on the ground, including 250 Interior personnel. Federal partners, including Interior, USDA, and FEMA continue to coordinate with state, and local agencies on the interagency response and recovery for the Waldo Canyon Fire. Overall, nearly 2,300 Interior employees are among the more than 11,100 personnel from the federal family who are bringing extensive resources to bear – from firefighters to aircraft –to battle fires in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah and others states.
On June 28, President Obama approved a major disaster declaration for Colorado, making federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, for El Paso and Larimer counties impacted by the High Park and Waldo Canyon Fires. Federal funding is also available for Crisis Counseling and Disaster Unemployment Assistance for affected individuals in El Paso and Larimer counties, impacted by the High Park and Waldo Canyon Fires. Additional forms of assistance may be designated as part of the disaster declaration once joint federal, state and local damage assessments are fully completed. FEMA has also approved Fire Management Assistance Grants to assist state and local firefighting efforts in Colorado and New Mexico. These grants help cover eligible costs, on a 75 percent cost share basis, and can reimburse state and local costs associated with personnel and equipment used to combat fires.
A FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team, upon request of the State of Colorado, is on site to provide support to the Colorado Division of Emergency Management, assisting with operational coordination. The IMAT consists of operations, planning, logistics, program, technology and emergency information staff who specialize in coordinating large-scale, multi-agency disaster responses.
Salazar also urged continued vigilance from homeowners and first responders as the nation continues to face a challenging fire season. Salazar highlighted the latest National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook for July-October 2012. Prepared by National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, the report provides federal, state, local and tribal government agencies, first responders and the public with information about the likelihood of wildland fire events. Updated outlooks are released by NIFC on the first of every month.
“This outlook is an important tool to ensure that we have the resources ready to support the current fire activity and available to respond to new wildfires that may occur,” said Salazar. “Many challenges lie ahead for states affected by wildfires as forecasts predict a combination of below normal precipitation, extreme temperatures, and dry conditions across most of the western United States and the Ohio Valley in June and the worsening drought conditions in the West and mid-West have increased the potential for wildfire in those areas.”
The outlook shows that, for the months of July through October, increased chances of wildfires are expected for most of the interior mountains and foothills of southern California, the Sierras and much of Nevada, southeast Oregon, southern Idaho, Utah, northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, most of Colorado and Wyoming, southern Montana, a small area of western Dakotas, and the states of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, western Texas, Oklahoma, and the western portions of many of the Hawaiian Islands.
On average, the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior bureaus respond to about 16,500 wildfires per year that occur on land under their jurisdiction and assist state and local agencies in responding to a significant number of the approximately 60,000 wildfires per year that occur on land under their jurisdiction.
Residents of areas prone to wildfire are encouraged to take action by clearing brush, trees, and other flammable materials away from homes. Federal land managers are also helping communities prepare for wildfire through partnerships with state, tribal and local agencies on 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. FEMA's Ready.gov has steps families and individuals can take now to be prepared for an emergency.