Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt today released a proposed list of communities eligible for enhanced federal wildfire prevention assistance. The preliminary list of over 4000 communities includes many that are near public lands managed by the federal government.
Glickman said, "This list will help better focus our aggressive federal fire prevention efforts and our limited resources."
Specific actions to reduce the threats of wildfires will vary. In some areas, for example, contracts may be offered to thin dense stands of trees or prescribed burns used to reduce excessive undergrowth. In other areas, actions may be taken to remove non-native plant species that increase fire danger.
Communities included on the list were proposed by states, tribes and local governments. The list was compiled by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The Western Governors Association, the National Association of State Foresters and others helped develop draft criteria to identify communities that may benefit from special attention to reduce wildland fire hazards. Accordingly, the list as well as the criteria will be refined as additional information and public comments are submitted to the federal agencies. The draft list, published in today's Federal Register and available on the web at www.nifc.gov, includes communities where hazardous fuels reduction treatments are already underway and those where treatments are slated for later this fiscal year.
The need to reduce fuels, especially in urban interface areas, was identified in the report Managing Impacts of Wildfires on Communities and Environment , which Secretaries Babbitt and Glickman submitted to President Clinton last year. Other initiatives underway include restoring and rehabilitating areas damaged by this year's wildfires, ensuring federal firefighting forces are fully prepared for future wildfire seasons and working closely with local rural fire districts to enhance local firefighting efforts.
Fire experts note that individuals themselves can take some actions immediately to thwart fires. For example, the creation of areas of defensible space around homes located in high risk areas has long been recommended. The defensible space should be thinned of brush, small trees, and any other material that could lead a fire from the surrounding trees to the home. In addition, home owners should make certain that wood piles are located at least 30 feet from any structure, and that roofing and other building materials are fire resistant.