Senate Committee Chair: Put out wildfires fast and early

Senator Murkowski encouraged the land management agencies to ensure there are a sufficient number of aircraft available to play a greater role on initial attack

Tanker 912 Horse Butte Fire Idaho
Tanker 912, a DC-10, dropping retardant on the Horse Butte Fire in Idaho, July, 2019. Photo by Mike Krupski.

(This article first appeared on Wildfire Today)

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Republican Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, yesterday sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt encouraging them to adopt an aggressive posture for fighting wildfires during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Currently, the federal government along with state and local governments across the country are mobilized to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. And now those same government entities, already stretched thin, are preparing to fight wildland fire in a world where COVID-19 still rages,” Murkowski wrote. “This problem could be particularly pronounced for regions like the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, which only received 40 percent of anticipated snowpack levels this winter.”

Murkowski urged the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to put fires out fast and early, and to limit the practice of intentionally allowing some wildfires to burn on landscapes. She also encouraged the agencies to ensure a sufficient number of aircraft are available to play a greater role on initial attack and emphasized the importance of protecting the health and safety of wildland firefighters.

“This season, these heroes will be waging a war against wildfires in at-risk communities in addition to a pandemic that threatens their families,” Murkowski wrote. “I understand that both Departments are producing guidance to ensure the public health and use of social distancing of firefighters who are deployed in the field. You are no doubt managing firefighter safety as a top priority and I encourage you to continue doing so.”

One of the roles of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is to oversee the four primary federal land management agencies — Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Forest Service.

Click here to view the full letter from Senator Murkowski.

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6 thoughts on “Senate Committee Chair: Put out wildfires fast and early”

  1. “to limit the practice of intentionally allowing some wildfires to burn on landscapes”???

    This is the exact opposite of what the federal government should be doing! When will we realize that’s aggressive IA is the problem and not the solution.

    We intentionally suppress fire on the landscape by allowing it not to burn.

    1. I agree. I may comment further at a later date. I do have a historic background in this field of studies and work.

  2. While there will probably be a lot of focus placed on air tanker support, perhaps as important, if not more so, will be early detection.

  3. To Senator Murkowski and other members of Congress with their ears on:

    The Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior have not had adequate firefighting aircraft, equipment and firefighters on the ground for many years. Don’t believe the head of any land management agency who tells you otherwise. Perhaps congress should secure funding for sufficient aerial and ground forces to fight fires, and mandate agencies to develop a “wartime” plan for their acquisition, training and use? Potential fire fighting resources are available today, it just requires effort and some creative thinking to get them hired, trained and ready.

    I predict fire managers and incident commanders will shift risk to aerial fire fighters in the absence of ground fire fighters this summer…shifting risk to aviation operations has happened before with disastrous results; it’s an unacceptable concept in fire fighting.

    1. Steve,
      I couldn’t agree more.. Fighting fire from the air with nobody on the ground is a waste of money and dangerous… We need to respond to fire assignments like usual with one difference we stay till the end and not just 14 days….

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