An independent panel study, conducted by The Brookings Institution, found that the Forest Service and Department of the Interior exercised appropriate fiscal diligence during the 2007 wildfire season. The panel reviewed the 27 wildfire incidents that each exceeded $10 million in the 2007 fire season, totaling $547 million in suppression costs and nearly 3 million burned acres.
The review panel also found that there was a much greater awareness of cost containment throughout the fire community in 2007. The panel's report compared the 27 wildfires in 2007 with the 18 wildfires that exceeded $10 million during the 2006 fire season. While both fire seasons were somewhat similar, in 2007 there was a "concerted effort to make cost management more than just another competing priority," according to the panel. This was reflected in the choice of fire suppression tactics, the selection of incident teams, and the use of resources - especially on longer term fires.
The panel also offered recommendations on the following key issues:
- Transforming Fire Management Plans from program reference documents into more strategic assessments of fire management planning and policies.
- Creating stronger linkages from Fire Management Plans to Community Wildfire Protection Plans.
- Ensuring that next generation decision support tools address complex fire management and longer term scenarios.
- Pursuing flexible suppression strategies, especially on extended fires.
- Revising the thresholds and selection criteria for regional and national reviews.
According to USDA Under Secretary Mark Rey, the Department is implementing cost management strategies and will develop an action plan to address the panel's recommendations.
This independent study is chartered by the Secretary of Agriculture, per direction from congress, and has been successfully conducted since the fiscal year 2004. The complete 2007 report is available on the Forest Service Fire & Aviation Management Web site at: www.fs.fed.us/fire