However, going back only two years ago to Wildland Fire Season-2000, that year was considered as one of the worst fire seasons for decades past. It was this very active wildfire season that resulted in the creation of the National Fire Plan (NFP).
Robert Leaverton, USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C. Office, is the National Fire Plan Coordinator: "The NFP was born out of Fire Season-2000. In August of 2000, the then President William Clinton went to the fires burning in Idaho and Montana, saw the effects of that fire season on our Nation's natural resources, losses to homeowners and businesses and courageous efforts of firefighters. After seeing the devastation, he asked the Secretaries of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) to develop a plan to reverse the trend of what was happening. A document was developed by the Secretaries and this became the National Fire Plan."
Excerpts From The National Fire Plan-An Overview
In FY-2000 the Secretaries of the USDA and the DOI developed an Interagency approach to respond to severe wildland fires, reduce their impacts on rural communities, and to assure sufficient firefighting capacity in the future.
The NFP addresses 5 key points: Firefighting; Rehabilitation and Restoration of burned resources; Hazardous Fuel Reduction; Community Assistance; and, Accountability.
The NFP is a long-term investment that will protect communities and natural resources, and most importantly, the lives of firefighters and the public. It is a long-term commitment based on cooperation and communication among federal agencies, states, local governments, (native American) tribes and interested parties. The federal wildland management agencies worked closely with these partners to prepare a 10-year Comprehensive Strategy. Congress continues to demonstrate its support of the NFP by providing over $2.26 billion for funding. Allocations include $1,590, 712,000 for the USFS and $678,421,000 for the DOI.
Some selected actions for FY-2002 include:
Complete the 10-year Comprehensive Strategy; Plan and implement the fuels reduction treatments on 2.6 million acres of federal lands; Identify and implement rehabilitation and restoration projects in burned areas; Assist rural and volunteer fire departments; Continue the national recruitment effort to hire more firefighters and other personnel to support the NFP; Invest in technologies that promote economic opportunities in processing forest products removed through hazardous fuel (Biomass) reduction; Invest in new fire facilities, maintenance and construction to assure safe and adequate firefighting facilities.
Community Assistance Programs:
As the nation's demographics change, developed areas and individual home sites increasingly extend into wilderness areas (W/UI). Community involvement is a critical element in restoring damaged landscapes and reducing fire hazards near homes and communities. Community Assistance Programs focus on building state and community capacity to develop and implement citizen-driven solutions that will lessen local vulnerability to risks associated with wildland fires.
The DOI will use funds to provide technical assistance, training, supplies, equipment, and public education support to rural fire departments, thus enhancing firefighter safety and strengthening wildland fire protection capabilities.
The USDA Forest Service will provide technical and financial assistance to the states to enhance firefighting capacity at the state and local levels. They will also support fire hazard mitigation projects in the W/UI and will facilitate an expanded FIREWISE workshop program to reduce fire risk. The USDA Forest Service will also provide assistance, through the states, to volunteer fire departments to improve communications, increase wildland fire management training, purchase PPE and firefighting equipment.
State Fire Assistance:
An important element in the NFP is the State Fire Assistance Program that provides financial and technical support directly to the state forest fire protection organizations to enhance the firefighting capabilities of state, local, and rural organizations. The USFS has an allocation of over $81 million in the NFP funding for the State Fire Assistance Program. Some of the program's elements are preparedness, fuel hazard mitigation, and fire prevention activities including Smokey Bear and FIREWISE educational programs.