Federal Resources Accessed for Wildfires in the West (6/12/12)
Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | Comments

Federal agencies are working closely with first responders and firefighters from local, state and tribal agencies to combat and monitor wildfires in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, as well as other states. Through the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), which coordinates resources from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Department of the Interior (DOI) and other federal agencies, firefighters, incident management teams, air tankers, 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.

On June 12, 19 active large fires were burning in nine states, including one of the largest in New Mexico history and one of the largest in Colorado history. Federal agencies made about 4,500 firefighters available to aid in efforts to suppress and contain the fires.

The USFS on June 11 announced the agency mobilized eight additional aircrafts to its firefighting fleet to ensure that an adequate number of air tankers are available for wildland firefighting efforts. With these additional air tankers, the Forest Service has 16 large air tankers and one large air tanker available immediately for wildfire suppression. The USFS has the capability to mobilize an additional 11 large air tankers, should circumstances require it.

Additionally, USFS and the DOI fire agencies can mobilize hundreds of helicopters and dozens of smaller aircraft, called single-engine air tankers.

To ensure states have the financial support they need, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided Fire Management Assistance Grants to states with active large fires. The 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. FEMA authorized the use of federal funds, through the Fire Management Assistance Grant Program (FMAG), to help with eligible firefighting costs for the High Park Fire located in Larimer County, Colo., and the Little Bear Fire located in Lincoln County, N.M. An FMAG was also approved for the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire located in New Mexico.

While extremely serious fires are burning in several states, to date the season has been below average, meaning that additional resources remain available should they be necessary.

“We continue to support our state, local and tribal partners as they work to contain and suppress the wildfires burning in the West,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Our fire managers are bringing extensive resources to bear to respond vigorously to those wildfires threatening lives, communities, and cultural and natural resources, and we stand ready to provide additional eligible resources as necessary.”

On average the USFS and DOI 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. For more on the NIFC, see “Fire Agency Ignites Interoperability” on Page 18 of the June issue of MissionCritical Communications magazine.

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