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September 14, 2005
CONTACT: Dan Jiron, USDA (202) 205-1134
Frank Quimby, DOI (202) 208-6416
Randy Eardley NIFC (208) 387-5895
Rose Davis NIFC (208) 387-6437

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2005

– The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) today announced that additional Incident Management Teams (IMTs) are en route to the Southeast in anticipation of Hurricane Rita’s full force. These teams comprised of specialists from eight state and federal agencies who routinely work together in responding to disaster and wildfire emergencies. The teams are supporting emergency response workers and managing an evacuation center in San Antonio, Texas, which is currently home to approximately 5,000 people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

"These teams have been the backbone for first responders during this crisis," said Mark Rey, USDA under secretary for natural resources and environment. "Their organizational skills enhance the close coordination between federal, state and community partners in the Gulf region, while also providing direct assistance to victims."

More than 4,300 members of the interagency wildland firefighting community mobilized through the National Interagency Coordination Center are engaged in a wide range of hurricane relief efforts along the Gulf Coast. When requests for assistance through the National Interagency Fire Center began shortly before Katrina struck, firefighters and IMTs were mobilized from across the country. These professionals come from across the spectrum of federal, state and local wildland fire organizations.

“The fire community excels in responding quickly and applying their experience in managing complex incidents to meet all the challenges and nuances of hurricane recovery,” said P. Lynn Scarlett, assistant secretary for policy, management and budget for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Since Katrina made landfall, 28 IMTs, dozens of crews and hundreds of individual specialists have been helping with search-and-rescue operations, clearing roads to receive and distribute supplies and transport evacuees. Though fire teams in the hurricane-affected region face a variety of elements not seen in the wildfire arena, including assisting evacuees with basic human, medical, and social needs, they are able to use their logistical and organizational skills to rapidly deploy people and resources when responding to emergency situations.

While USDA and the DOI prepare for Hurricane Rita, Katrina response efforts continue. To date, the following personnel and resources have been provided:

Distribution Center Assistance: One team, managing a distribution center in Mississippi, coordinated the shipment of 2,600 truckloads of water, ice, food and other commodities to 53 counties in six states during the past 15 days. Another team managing a similar distribution site in Mississippi has distributed 4.5 million gallons of water, 2.5 million ready-to-eat meals and 37 million pounds of ice in the same timeframe.

Clean-up Assistance: Fire crews, also working in Mississippi, have cleared downed trees and debris from more than 400 miles of road to facilitate transportation.

Community Assistance: Other teams are managing base camps and providing meals to evacuees and relief workers. One such camp at the New Orleans airport has served 97,000 meals to evacuees in recent days, and another is serving 36,000 meals per day.

Evacuation Shelter Assistance: IMTs are managing evacuation shelters in San Antonio, Texas and Phoenix, Ariz. Within 5 days of setting up the center in Phoenix, the team had taken in 564 evacuees from the New Orleans area along with eight dogs, 10 puppies, three cats and one cockatiel that came with their owners.

The National Interagency Fire Center is the national support center for wildland firefighting. Federal and state agencies share firefighting supplies, equipment and personnel to facilitate efficient and cost-effective firefighting or disaster management. Eight agencies coordinate and support wildland fire and disaster operations: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, National Association of State Foresters, National Weather Service and the U.S. Fire Administration.

Additional information and updates about USDA and DOI hurricane relief efforts are posted on the Web at and For more information about making contributions for disaster assistance go to and