Agencies Prepared for Busy Western Wildfire Season

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Interior Secretary Jewell visited the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise on May 13 and said communities should be ready because the outlook is for a severe fire season.

Following a 2012 wildfire season that saw 9.3 million acres of private, state, and federal land and more than 4,400 structures burned in wildfires, two top federal officials, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, visited the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise on May 13 to call attention to fire preparedness. The 2012 number of acres burned was third highest number in any year since at least 1960, which is the earliest date with reliable records, according to USDA.

Firefighting experts from multiple government agencies continuously monitor fire activity, weather, and fuel conditions at the center while strategically positioning federal firefighters, ground equipment, and aircraft across the country.

"The U.S. Forest Service, federal fire managers, and crews will continue to work closely with states and communities to protect residents, property and our natural resources during what could be a challenging wildfire season," Vilsack said. "We are working together to preposition our firefighting teams and equipment to make the most effective use of available resources during this time of constrained budgets."

"As regions across the country face serious risks of wildfires this season, the work ongoing at the National Interagency Fire Center is important to ensure that we're doing everything we can to protect lives, communities, and our natural resources. The public also has an important role to play, and I encourage homeowners and communities to take proactive steps when it comes to preparedness, prevention and safety," Jewell said.

Above-normal fire potential is predicted for almost all of Arizona, New Mexico, California, Oregon, and Idaho and for parts of Montana, Colorado, Utah, and Washington. Federal assets include more than 13,000 firefighters, including permanent and seasonal federal employees; more than 1,600 engines; up to 26 multiengine air tankers and two water scooper aircrafts; approximately 27 single engine air tankers; and hundreds of helicopters.

Communities and residents can access educational resources at www.fireadapted.org.

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