Sunday, August 3, 2008

Wildfire news, August 3

One person killed and 59 houses burn in Turkey

A fire in the province of Antalya is now partially contained after very strong winds decreased. One person was killed and another one is reported to be missing. The fire burned 59 houses and about 9,000 acres.

Idaho Statesman Fire Wise series

Fire Wise series part one: Are we wasting billions fighting wildfires?
Fire Wise series part two: Firefighting burns money, manpower
Fire Wise series part three: 'Only you' can change how we deal with fire

The articles prompted a response from Gary Brown, the Fire and Aviation Staff Officer for the Payette National Forest in Idaho. Here is an excerpt:
.....However, it is an oversimplification to say that we can stop fighting fire and spend all our suppression funding on "firewising" structures and communities. As a fire staff officer I understand my agency's limited jurisdiction when it comes to activities off the national forests. But we do provide federal grants for fuel treatments on private land, which are passed through to county, state, fire protection districts and others who get the work done. Homeowners do have a responsibility in protecting their property and we wish to be partners.

There are also other good reasons for putting out fires, such as protecting grazing and timber lands, recreational values and water supplies. We simply can't stop putting out fires, and we can manage some fires for specific reasons. Suppression objectives are valid, when needed, as is allowing a fire to fulfill its ecological role, given the proper conditions and objectives. The bottom line is that fire managers should be able to describe what it is we wish to accomplish on the landscape with every fire. Fire managers along with their cooperators must do the difficult of work of balancing what is best for the land with what is best for people, with firefighter and public safety as the overriding concern.

Fuel breaks saved homes

The San Bernardino Sun has an article about how fuel breaks prevented some homes from burning during the Grass Valley fire near Lake Arrowhead in California last year.

"CNN Drops" on Long Island fire

In 1995 after a fire had burned through an area of Long Island, Senator Alfonse D'Amato yelled at Incident Management Team member Harry Doughty, "Get me the planes, get me the planes!" He had it in his mind that national guard C-130 MAFF air tankers were needed on the fire, even though the fire had slowed, and the incident already had 6 air tankers and 12 helicopters.

D'Amato, who was leading the Senate investigation into Whitewater against President Bill Clinton, called Clinton and demanded the C-130s. Clinton sent three top aids to Long Island to placate D'Amato, but D'Amato was not deterred, and that is when he yelled at Doughty, who finally called the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise and ordered the planes.

By the time they were dispatched, configured, and arrived from North Carolina the fire had been contained. For public consumption (and for CNN footage), they searched for a moderately active section of the fire and dropped along a strip of burning grass near a highway.

Doughty retired in 2000 after working for the Main Forest Service for 26 years. More details of the story are here.

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