Friday, July 19, 2024

US Forest Service finds gaps in key areas during review of prescribed fires and aims to enhance safety

Investigation Finds Gaps in Forest Service’s Use of Prescribed Fire as Wildfire Risk Reduction Tool

Title: Investigation Reveals Gaps in U.S. Forest Service’s Prescribed Burn Program

In a recent report released by the Government Accountability Office, it was revealed that there are gaps that need to be addressed within the U.S. Forest Service’s prescribed fire program. The investigation was prompted by the largest and most destructive wildfire in New Mexico’s history, the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Fire, which occurred in 2022.

The report highlights that between 2012 and 2021, there were 43 documented escapes out of 50,000 prescribed fire projects across the country. This troubling trend has raised concerns about the agency’s ability to safely utilize prescribed fire as a tool to reduce wildfire risk amid climate change.

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, who requested the investigation, emphasized the importance of addressing these gaps to ensure the safety of communities and landscapes. With federal funding being allocated to increase prescribed burn operations over the next decade, it is crucial that the Forest Service makes necessary reforms to prevent future disasters.

Forest Service Chief Randy Moore acknowledged the need for improvement and pledged to create and implement a corrective action plan to address the identified gaps. He also highlighted the agency’s progress in treating hazardous fuels and providing training for specialized crews.

The GAO’s recommendations include developing a plan for implementing reforms, setting goals, measuring progress, and allocating resources for effective management. Leger Fern├índez expressed optimism that change will come swiftly, as wildfires continue to pose increasing risks to lives and property.

As the agency works towards implementing these reforms, the goal is to reduce wildfire risk and ensure that prescribed fire operations are conducted safely and effectively. The Forest Service’s commitment to addressing these gaps is crucial in safeguarding communities and natural landscapes from future wildfire disasters.

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