It’s about time
It’s too bad that there has to be an epic fire season before the U.S. government realizes that the Forest Service’s spending habits are part of the problem. Seems the department has been borrowing money from its fire prevention program to pay for firefighting.
As of Sept. 14, wildland fire suppression costs for this fiscal year have exceeded $2 billion, according to a release from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. This makes it the most expensive year on record. And, this probably doesn’t include the money spent by the individual fire stations fighting these fires or the farmers and ranchers trying to protect their homes and property.
Fortunately Perdue is pushing for fire suppression efforts to be treated the same as other disasters. Makes perfect sense to me. Losing something to fire is definitely up there with losing something to a flood.
This would leave the fire prevention funds to be spent on what they should be spent on like prescribed burns, harvesting and insect control.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center website, on Sept. 15, California was fighting 9 large fires, Idaho, 5, Montana, 22, Nevada, 1, New Mexico, 1, Oregon, 14, South Dakota, 2, Texas, 1, Utah, 2, Washington, 8, and Wyoming, 1. Also, there are 66 active large fires affecting 1.71 million acres. If you want to keep track of wildfires go to https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm. There is a lot of good information on that website.
I have only been up close and personal with one fire in my lifetime, other than starting things on fire on my kitchen stove. Oh, and that toaster oven that I used to have.
There was a fire that started in some CRP land northwest of Grand Forks, N.D. It was about 9:30 p.m., and I just happened to be driving by and, of course, my journalistic instincts kicked in and I drove over to the fire. I got there before the fire department so I drove up close as I could until I realized that my truck would soon be consumed by flames if I didn’t turn around. As you can imagine, a fire can pick up quickly in heavy, dry grass. I got turned around and found that the fire department was there and they had blocked the road I was on. But I got around the road block and found my way to where all the action was. I watched the firefighters for a while, got some quotes from the fire chief and sped back to the newsroom to write a story. That fire fortunately was contained before the next morning.
I sure wouldn’t want to see a fire like that heading toward my home or my property.
A good way for all of us to help out people in the fire lines is to urge our representatives in Washington to make the changes that Perdue is asking for so the Forest Service can do its job. ❖
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