USDA issues fire prevention memo in advance of July 4th holiday

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2012 - To further address the severity of current wildland fire activity across the western states, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack issued a joint memorandum to direct federal land managers to take additional measures to help reduce the risks of new wildfires.

"As we continue our aggressive response to wildfires across the West, we must continue to do all we can to support our firefighters, first responders, and their families," said Salazar. "Protecting human life and ensuring public safety is and will remain our top priority, and these measures will help us minimize the risks of new wildfires on America's public lands.”

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On average, the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior bureaus respond to about 16,500 wildfires per year that occur on land under their jurisdiction and assist state and local agencies in responding to a significant number of the approximately 60,000 wildfires per year that occur on land under their jurisdiction.

“As we move into the 4th of July holiday under difficult wildfire conditions, let's use this opportunity to thank the men and women fighting to keep our citizens safe, and remember to take easy steps to prevent and prepare for wildfires by visiting," he added.  

Building on existing federal and state policies designed to decrease the likelihood of accidental fires, the joint memorandum directs federal land managers to prohibit the personal use of fireworks on lands managed by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming until July 8, 2012. These local managers will also enforce additional fire restrictions or public land closures as appropriate for the 4th of July holiday and heighten law enforcement and fire prevention patrols in critical areas to ensure that all applicable restrictions are enforced. Many states, such as Colorado and Wyoming, have also put in place new restrictions on the use of fires and fireworks during this time.

"As our country celebrates its independence, the aggressive wildland fire fight continues," Vilsack said. "I want to thank the thousands of brave men and women on the front lines who are battling these fires under extremely difficult conditions, and protecting homes, communities, and cultural and economic resources. We ask our citizens to be extra cautious while following open flame guidelines and to review the fire prevention guidance at"

Additional measures include prohibiting new prescribed fires in geographic areas where Preparedness Level is at 4 or 5 - which currently includes the Rocky Mountain Area, Eastern Great Basin Area, and Southwest Area - and requiring regional or state level approval to initiate any new prescribed fire in all other geographic areas. Each Preparedness Level has specific management directions. As the Preparedness Levels rise, more federal and state employees become available for fire mobilization if needed.

Agencies and bureaus are asked to review their procedures to ensure that the safety of firefighters and the public continue to be the highest priority at every level of the decision-making process during fire suppression. These measures will remain in effect until the National Multi-Agency Coordinating group determines a national Preparedness Level 3 or below. On June 27th, NMAC raised the preparedness level to 4, on a scale of 1-5.


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