U.S. Department of the InteriorDOI News Header
Office of the Secretary
November 23, 2007
Chris Paolino, (202) 208-6416
Don Smurthwaite, (208) 387-5458

Secretary Kempthorne Commends Wildland Firefighters, National Fire Center Employees
for Their Service to Nation

Derrek Hartman and Eric Reynolds, Boise BLM smokejumpers, presented Secretary Kempthorne with a Fire Season 2007 picture.
Derrek Hartman and Eric Reynolds, Boise BLM smokejumpers, presented Secretary Kempthorne with a Fire Season 2007 picture. Hi-Res.

BOISE, Idaho -- Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne on Wednesday thanked federal wildland firefighters and employees at the National Interagency Fire Center for their selfless dedication and outstanding efforts in battling wildfires across the nation during the past year, the second-worst wildfire season on record since 1960. 

“You faced some complex challenges during this long and tough fire year, first in Georgia and Florida, then in Idaho and Montana and ultimately with October’s firestorm in California,” Kempthorne said.  “We owe all of you who fought these fires a huge debt of gratitude.  You made a difference whether you cut line, dropped water or retardant, felled a burning tree, or otherwise took on the challenge of fire.”

Kempthorne said people across the West share this sense of gratitude. “From ranchers in Three Creek, Idaho, to tribal officials at Duck Valley, Nevada, I heard expressions of gratitude for the hard work, sacrifice and courage of federal, state and local firefighters.” he said. I can’t tell you how many hand-lettered signs I saw that said something similar to, “Thanks, firefighters.” 

More than 79,000 wildland fires have burned 9.4 million acres as of November 16.  More than 98 percent of these wildfires were suppressed by the first crews on site.

The Secretary noted that despite the extent and severity of the wildland fires, it was one of the safest years on record for firefighters, who managed the blazes in an effective and efficient manner. “You are a credit to your profession and a credit to the West.  I am proud to be able to personally thank each and every one of you for a job well done.”

Kempthorne also commended two NIFC employees for their extra efforts during the Southern California wildfires in October.  Sheri Ascherfeld was recognized for developing and providing clear, concise briefing information that was critically needed to help the Department respond to questions from the highest level of government, including the Office of the President and members of Congress.

Doug Shinn, a USDA Forest Service employee with NIFC’s National Interagency Coordination Center, oversaw the management of filling resource orders for the federal firefighting response to the Southern California blazes.  In a pressure-filled environment, he was a vital link in communications with other agencies, cooperators and the Department, continually supplying updated information that helped us to gain a clear picture of what was going on, and what was needed. 

Kempthorne noted that some parts of the country are still experiencing wildland fires, while conditions in Southern California and elsewhere continue to pose the threat of wildfires and predicted fire seasons will likely remain severe.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho is the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting. Seven federal and state agencies call NIFC home and work together to coordinate and support wildland fire and disaster operations. These agencies include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, National Association of State Foresters, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, and Aviation Management Directorate.
NIFC coordinates federal response efforts; sets priorities; fills requests for thousands of firefighters and tons of equipment and supplies; produces fire weather forecasts; and carries out other behind-the-scene services to support people on the line.

— DOI —