He was asked about the Tamarack Fire which was not aggressively attacked for 13 days
2: 27 p.m. PDT Oct. 13, 2021
In a Congressional committee hearing September 29 the new Chief of the U.S. Forest Service hit a lot of the right notes in his testimony. The hearing was before the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry. The hearing was titled, “The 2021 Wildland Fire Year: Responding to and mitigating threats to communities.”
In his prepared statement, Chief Randy Moore, apparently standing in front of a real or virtual photo of Mt. Shasta, topped with lenticular clouds said that “America’s forests have entered a state emergency and it is time to treat them as one .”
. He spoke for several minutes on issues related to federal wildland firefighters. Here’s an excerpt:
We must keep a resilient and stable firefighting force. It starts by taking care of the brave firefighters.
They deserve better benefits and work/life balance. For all the hard work they put in, they deserve a supportive workplace. They need support services and counseling to avoid tragedy in times of increased stress, suicide and depression. They are entitled to better wages. The federal wages for firefighters are not up to par with those in the states.
” We must modernize the wildland fire control system. This includes improving technology use. This includes improving our decision-making systems and models, as well as strengthening our cooperation relationships.
We will not hire enough firefighters and we won’t buy enough aircraft or engines to fight these fires. It is essential that we actively manage forests. This is what it takes for this situation to change. We need to shift away from small-scale treatments and towards science-based solutions that cross borders. It must begin with the most critical areas at risk. We must treat 20 million acres over 10 years. Treatments make a difference .”
An interesting but very brief discussion occurred at 1: 41: 08 (see the video above) when Representative Doug LaMalfa of California’s 1st Congressional District (Oroville) asked the Chief about a report of difficulties in the working relationship between the Forest Service and CAL FIRE that surfaced during the Caldor Fire west of South Lake Tahoe according to 60 Minutes September 26, 2021. I think I have more information than you, Congressman,” he said. “I don’t know of any problems between CAL FIRE and the Forest Service. As I said earlier, that relationship is very solid. As I said, that relationship is very solid. )
Representative LaMalfa asked about the Tamarack Fire near Markleeville, CA which started as a single tree on July 4, 2021 and was monitored but not suppressed for 13 days while it was very small until it suddenly grew very large. It burned at least 15 structures and more than 67,000 acres as it ran from California into Nevada jumping Highway 395 and prompting the evacuation of 2,000 people.
Chief Moore stated that the Forest Service had “spiked out small crews to monitor the fire” after it was started. If that was the case, they apparently took no action, because the USFS reported on July 10 that it was 0. 25 acre, they were not going to insert crews due to safety concerns, and it “posed no threat to the public, infrastructure, or resource values.”
In describing the situation, the Chief said that when the Tamarack Fire started on July 4 there were 100 large wildland fires and 27,000 fire personnel had been deployed. The Chief stated that they would have liked to have enough firefighters to start the fire. “What we should really be talking about is an active forest management program. There will always be situations where you can second guess decisions that were made.”
The national Situation Report from July 5, 2021 shows that there were only 33 large uncontained fires at the time and 7,652 personnel had been mobilized. On July 22 the incident management team working on the Tamarack Fire reported that 1,200 personnel were assigned to the fire.
Author: Bill Gabbert
After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. View all posts by Bill Gabbert
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