USDA Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, currently on his way home after an extensive two-day tour assessing the wildfires in Idaho and Montana, reinforced today that the national wildfire suppression effort is working according to the national strategy. Dombeck made the evaluation at the direction of USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, who oversees the Forest Service.
“This has been a seamless operation and I commend the more than 20,000 dedicated men and women who are working so hard in this firefighting effort,” said Dombeck. “This is as government and local communities ought to work.”
Dombeck has directed his senior leaders to immediately begin identifying more than 60 strike team leaders, experts in guiding firefighter crews, from within the ranks of the agency. This action is in preparation for possible expansion of military involvement. In addition, Forest Service leadership will continue to monitor and identify key resources as necessary to support an expansion of firefighting efforts.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)—in coordination with 11 Geographic Area Coordination Centers—is executing a planned strategy to guide use of available resources based on three national priorities: firefighter and public safety; initial attack on new fires; and protection of communities at risk.
“Because firefighter and public safety is our absolute number one concern, it is devastating to hear of the loss of a life,” expressed Dombeck, referring to yesterday’s helicopter accident in Nevada where a pilot was killed and three people were injured. “My deepest condolences go out to the pilot’s family members and loved ones.” (Names are being withheld pending notification of family members.)
Dombeck emphasized that NIFC has access to personnel, equipment and supplies from countless sources, which can be activated quickly and effectively.
“We are grateful for the cooperative support of our northern neighbor, Canada, who will be dispatching 10 firefighter teams in the next two days,” added Dombeck.
More than 95 percent of the fires on federal land are being caught during initial attack.
“The federal firefighting agencies knew this spring that this year’s fire season could develop into one of the most dangerous in many years,” said Dombeck. “We have been preparing and the planning has paid off.”
Dombeck will give a full report on his findings to USDA Secretary Dan Glickman.