Monday, July 07, 2008

Federal Firefighting in California: Katrina part 2

The Collapse of Federal Firefighting in California

By Robert Cruickshank

As my recent articles have shown there is a shortage of firefighters to meet the unprecedented amount of fires burning across our state. As I began digging into this yesterday I came across the same report highlighted in today's Monterey Herald - that US Forest Service firefighting efforts have been cut to the bone and left the nation vulnerable to massive fires. Deliberate staffing shortages have left the USFS unable to do vital off-season brush clearance, and left them without the staffing to get a quick jump on fires in their crucial initial stages.

“The federal firefighting system is "imploding" in California, due to poor spending decisions and high job vacancy rates, as the region struggles to keep pace with what looks to be a historic fire season, a firefighters' advocacy group charges.

“As a result, the firefighters say, small fires have exploded into extended, multimillion-dollar conflagrations because the U.S. Forest Service has been unable to contain them during the early "initial attack" stage...

“As the "sheer number" of California wildfires pushed the nation to its worst measurable level of wildland-fire preparedness last week - Level 5 - a national multiagency coordinating group announced in a memo Monday that firefighter staffing levels in Northern California "cannot be maintained."

The report, by the FWFSA, has been around for a few months now. Wildland firefighters have been screaming about the issue to anyone who would listen, including Dianne Feinstein:
Read the rest of the report at California Progress Report.
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