Firefighters from BLM’s Kingman District in Arizona seen from behind hiking with gear as part of a mock fire exercise. Photo by Suzanne Allman, BLM contractor.
BY JEFF RUPERT
The first half of 2022 brought extreme fire activity to some states around the country, from New Mexico to Alaska. We know the impacts of these wildfires can be devastating for individuals and communities, and we are thankful for the dedicated fire response personnel at the Department of the Interior and among our partners who continue to work to protect lives, communities, and our public lands.
Nationwide, more than 49,000 wildfires have burned more than 6.3 million acres, which is will well above the 10-year average for this time of year. Continuing drought, extreme temperatures, and windy conditions across much of the country are poised to continue the danger of additional wildfires in the coming weeks.
We know that nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by people. Even small precautions taken by individuals can play a significant role in reducing wildfires. From using campfires safely to ensuring your vehicle and equipment does not give off sparks, everyone has a role to play in wildfire prevention. Check out these simple steps you can take to prevent the next wildfire.
Despite our best precautions, some communities will continue to be impacted by wildfires this year. It’s never too late to make sure you, your household, and your community are prepared.
At the Interior Department, we are continuing our efforts to address the new norm of more extreme fire years.
From improved pay to additional mental health resources, we are delivering and planning yet more support for our firefighters who perform grueling, hazardous work to protect lives, communities, and our public lands.
With the help of significant additional funding provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are also expanding wildfire mitigation efforts. We are helping to rehabilitate burned landscapes and improve their resilience to wildfires on additional acreage. And we are investing in technology to improve wildfire detection and monitoring, firefighter safety, and more.
We are also looking forward to supporting the new Wildfire Mitigation and Management Commission in its work to identify strategic policies to improve the efficiency of our wildfire response and the resilience of our landscapes and communities. Commission members were recently selected, and the commission will convene for its first meeting this fall.
Together, these efforts will help us steadily improve our ability to adapt to climate change and live with fire.
As the Director of the Office of Wildland Fire, Jeff Rupert oversees the Department of the Interior’s Wildland Fire Management Program, which spans four bureaus and administers over 535 million acres of public and Tribal lands. In this role, he sets policy and ensures the program’s $1.5 billion budget is strategically invested to reduce wildfire risk, rehabilitate burned landscapes, promote a better understanding of wildfire, and support firefighters. During more than 30 years with the Department of the Interior, Rupert also served as the Chief of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning and as a refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service.