LA Times series explores the rising cost of fighting wildfires

On July 27, the Los Angeles Times began a week-long series delving into the rising costs of fighting wildfires. The first two articles discuss the role of private contractors and the influence of political pressures. Next up: more and more people are living in remote, fire-prone areas, complicating evacuation and fire-fighting efforts.

Firefighters from Pacific islands join firefighting efforts in CA

Firefighters from islands in the Pacific have joined the fight to contain wildland fires on the Mendocino National Forest. There are four fire crews – one each from Saipan, American Samoa, Guam and Hawaii – and they are trained by a cadre of experts from the US Forest Service’s Region 5 fire professionals who go to the South Pacific Islands each April.

National Guard troops set to relieve fire crews in CA

Associated Press: Weary crews battling blazes across northern and central California soon will get some help from the National Guard, the first time the troops have been called to ground-based firefighting duty since 1977. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday ordered 200 guardsmen to report for fire training to begin assisting on the fire lines early next week. The extra hands are expected to boost the nearly 19,000 personnel currently fighting the fires.

NY Times: Anxiety grows in West over firefighting

A feature article in the New York Times today highlights growing pressures on wildland fire readiness in the Western region of the United States, due in part to proposed funding cuts to states for training and personnel in the U.S. Forest Service's 2009 budget. This would "cut our ability to train volunteers and supply equipment,” said Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser.

USFS readiness scrutinized during Senate hearing

The USDA Forest Service's readiness and staffing challenges were debated during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing yesterday. USDA Undersecretary Mark Rey insisted that the agency is prepared, despite other testimony from firefighter organizations that underscored long-standing morale problems, staffing shortages and insufficient resources.

North Carolina wildfires double in size

From The Associated Press: A wildfire that started on a wildlife refuge in eastern North Carolina and burned into privately owned rural land doubled in size as it sent smoke and ash as far away as the Outer Banks and neighboring Virginia. The fire consumed just over 32 square miles of forest and fields at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. About half the fire was burning on the refuge and about half was on private land in Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington Counties, officials said.