Editorial: Fire Weather Forecast: Hot & Smoky

The above title was developed by Contributing Editor Paul Hashagen when he was promoting a slide show I gave as a fund raiser for his fire department a few years ago. As I write this editorial, the National Interagency Fire Center reports that there are nine large wildland fires in Alabama, California, Nevada, Oregon and Texas involving 85,883 acres. Nearly 8,300 firefighters are fighting these wildland fires and are backed by 574 engines, 73 helicopters, four air tankers and 1,560 support personnel.

Since the beginning of the year, 70,949 fires have consumed 4,435,190 acres. By this time last year, 64,534 fires had burned 2,121,390 acres. For the same period in 1996, a total of 87,838 fires had destroyed 5,825,067 acres. The 10-year average for activity to date is 60,400 scorching 2,679,597 acres.

There was much more burning than just wildland fires. At this writing, several million tires were burning in Ohio and a major fire in a tightly congested area had just consumed several buildings in Holyoke, MA. The structures included two vacant apartment houses, a church and rectory, a school and an occupied apartment building. And if that wasn't enough, the fire service on the East Coast was facing the challenges presented by Hurricane Floyd.

We are pleased to present Part 1 of the Volunteer Run Survey, the most comprehensive compilation of statistics on volunteer fire departments to be found anywhere. The exclusive survey begins on page 52. Also, as communications technology improves, FDNY Battalion Chief James Campbell reports on a new hazard that firefighters can find in almost every jurisdiction in the country. Cellular telephone sites have a unique makeup and hazards that each and every firefighter needs to understand. See the important information on page 48.

The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), James Lee Witt, has announced the selection of a new chief operating officer (COO) for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). Kenneth O. Burris Jr. has served as fire chief in Marietta, GA, since 1992. As a senior executive service career appointee, Chief Burris will serve as the primary advisor to FEMA's director and the USFA administrator on overall operations and management of the USFA. The COO position was established in response to recommendations by members of fire service organizations and focuses on bringing increased technical and practical fire expertise to the USFA. For the complete story on the appointment and its impact see Hal Bruno's Fire Politics column on page 10.

Publisher's Note: Due to a production error, the August 1999 cover of Firehouse® Magazine included the logo of a manufacturer. It is against the policy of Firehouse® to feature any advertiser's name or logo on our covers, and the logo should not have appeared. Firehouse® regrets the error. Bruce T. Bowling