The Departments of Agriculture and Interior are ready for this year's wildland fire season. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar say more than 18,000 firefighters will be available in 2010 including permanent and seasonal federal and state employees, crews from tribal and local governments, contract crews and emergency/temporary hires.
The Secretaries say wildfires are becoming more complex and extreme due to forest and rangeland health conditions, climate change and population growth near wildlands. But Vilsack says both are ready to meet the challenge. On average the USDA Forest Service responds to more than 10,000 wildfires per year - suppressing 98% of them on initial attack.
Interior Secretary Salazar says many of the nation's forests have an unnatural accumulation of hazardous fuels, are unable to withstand insect and disease outbreaks and are facing the impacts of climate change - all of which increase the potential for extreme wildfires. That's why preparedness efforts including prescribed burns, community partnerships, additional resources and thinning of excess vegetation are so vital to the safety of communities and the health of our lands and waters.