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DOI to Treat More Than 1.2M Acres this Wildfire Season, Resources Mobilized across the Nation - 08/19/19

Agency personnel and critical assets are poised to respond to wildfires across the country

Washington - With peak wildfire activity predicted in the coming months, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has been working tirelessly to implement preventative measures to limit the size and scope of wildfires, treat current wildfires already underway, and protect wildfire-prone areas to best safeguard people and their communities. 

“As stewards of one-fifth of the country’s public lands, primarily in the West, we know that our ability to be prepared for wildfires and reduce their severity is paramount to protecting communities and saving lives,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “In collaboration with local, state, and other federal partners, we are using everything in our arsenal to prepare for wildfires this year, treating more than one million acres.”

As a part of the DOI, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the National Park Service (NPS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) contribute to a total workforce of 4,500 firefighting personnel, 500 tribal firefighters, 151 smokejumpers, 18 interagency hotshot crews and 4 Tribal hotshot crews. These firefighters will have over 600 pieces of specialized equipment available for use, including engines, water tenders, dozers, and other equipment. Aviation assets also play a critical role in efforts to manage wildfires as the DOI will have access to 23 single engine air tankers, 6 water scoopers, 41 Type 1, 2 and 3 helicopters, and a number of other aviation resources.

The Trump Administration has prioritized active management of the nation’s public lands as provided in the President’s Executive Order 13855 and Secretary’s Order 3372, which establish a meaningful and coordinated framework for ensuring the protection of people, communities, and natural resources. Implementation of both Orders is a priority for reducing the risks of deadly and destructive wildfires.

This year, the BLM began analyzing a significant, 11,000-mile stretch of strategic fuel breaks to combat wildfires in the Great Basin, which includes portions of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, and Utah. This large-scale, collaborative project could serve as a means to better control wildfires within a 223 million acre area. The environmental impact of the proposal is still being evaluated.

As DOI continues to evaluate innovative ways to best limit the destruction of wildfires in the future, it is nearing completion of more than 2,500 wildfire risk-reduction projects on more than 1.2 million acres of DOI and tribally-administered lands in some of the most fire-prone areas of the country. Some of the state totals to be completed and specific projects already completed this fiscal year include:

Alaska: More than 43,000 acres of land will be treated. Already this year, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, in cooperation with two Alaska Native Corporations and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, has implemented 90 acres of fuels management activities through mechanical treatments and prescribed fire treatments. This treatment is a component of a multi-year fuels break project, initiated in 2016, planned and implemented to protect the community of Sterling, AK. The Sterling fuels break was utilized as a contingency fire line, protecting Sterling from the threat from the 2019 Swan Lake Fire, which has now burned 102,521 acres and is currently 80% contained.

Arizona: Nearly 85,000 acres of land will be treated. Fuels treatment projects are ongoing with 21,287 acres treated so far this year, including 6,706 acres in the southwest border area. By the end of the fiscal year, more than 27,544 total acres of fuels are targeted for treatment by prescribed fire, chemical application or mechanical methods.

California: More than 30,000 acres of land will be treated with some projects including: A 93 acre fuels treatment project in the Sandy Gulch unit of the South Fork Mokelumne Project, near the community of Glenco in Calaveras County. In addition to the work completed by the Mother Lode Field Office, the Calaveras Healthy Impact Products Solutions, which is a local non-profit partner, has completed an adjacent 35-acre fuel break on BLM-managed public lands. This 35 acres represents the north portion of a fuel break that was identified as a priority by CAL FIRE after the 2015 Butte Fire. The southern portion of the fuel break is scheduled to be completed this fall, and will connect to ongoing fuels work in the southern part of the South Fork Mokelumne Project. The BLM California Bishop Field Office made improvements to existing fuelbreaks adjacent to residential areas. Wildland fire crews cut and removed downed trees and limbs on BLM-managed lands, reducing the available fuel load. The project was undertaken in partnership with residents of the community of Wilkerson, Inyo National Forest, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Colorado: More than 27,000 acres of land will be treated. The BLM completed a 286-acre prescribed fire near Bayfield, Colorado, called the Rabbit Mountain Project Prescribed Fire. It was completed to restore and maintain a healthy ecosystem and reduce the risk of wildfire to private lands and improvements in the area. The prescribed fire will reinvigorate grasses, forbs, and shrubs and improve deer and elk habitat.

Florida: More than 183,000 acres of land will be treated. Already this year, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has completed 8,747 acres of prescribed fire and 1,839 acres of mechanical fuel reduction treatments, with partners including the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the National Park Service, the Florida Forest Service, and Brevard County. These fuel reduction projects protect residents, tourists, federal employees, public land, and military and private space industry. Minimizing operational disruption and mitigating risks and hazards, the projects reduce the intensity and duration of wildfires, smoke, and road closures.

Montana: Nearly 85,000 acres of land will be treated. The FWS and the BLM worked with the state of Montana and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service to reduce fire risk by removing trees and clearing brush. The project near the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge reduces the risk of catastrophic fires from spreading to local communities. All timber was harvested and supported local economies.

Minnesota: More than 42,000 acres of land will be treated, primarily from the Red Lake Helitack crew from the Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. They completed a 41,000 acre project to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest conditions. The aviation crew flew for eight hours in coordination with ground support using prescribed burns to remove the grassy understory and replenish the forest.

Nevada: More than 85,000 acres of land will be treated. One project already completed includes: The BLM Nevada Battle Mountain District has recently completed over 2,115 acres of treatments along roadsides including thinning, masticating, herbicide application, mowing, drill seeding, and broadcast seeding to create fuel breaks to limit the wildfire growth potential of roadside ignitions. In 2018, this fuel break allowed the district to successfully suppress a fire, keeping it from becoming a larger, more destructive disaster.

Utah: More than 134,000 acres of land will be treated overall. At BLM Utah, fuels treatment projects are ongoing with approximately 75,000 acres treated so far this year. By the end of the fiscal year, more than 117,000 total acres of fuels are targeted for treatment by prescribed fire or mechanical methods. Fuel treatment accomplishments are continually increasing on an annual basis, with acres targeted for 2019 being the highest planned accomplishment ever. Also, BLM is seeking comments on an environmental assessment (EA) analyzing a proposal to treat vegetation and fuels as part of a wildfire mitigation project near Castle Valley, Utah. The proposal covers approximately 1,400 acres of fuel breaks within a larger 7,500-acre planning and analysis area.

Virginia: More than 11,000 acres of land will be treated. One project already completed includes: The NPS completed a prescribed burn in Manassas National Battlefield Park. The prescribed burn helps to reduce the risk of wildfires and improves the habitat for wildlife.

As wildfire activity likely increases, DOI, in collaboration with local, state, and federal partners, is moving wildfire suppression resources to the most susceptible areas around the country. At the center of this coordination is the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), which coordinates eight different agencies and organizations’ emergency management responses. The NIFC produces a monthly “National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook,” which provides wildland fire potential forecasts for the country. The most recent outlook forecasts potential for above normal fire activity in western Oregon and Washington, parts of California and Nevada, and the interior of Alaska.

“Most of the western states experienced a wet spring, which allowed vegetation to grow thickly and quickly,” said Fire Weather Program Manager with NIFC’s Predictive Services group Bryan Henry. “The wet, cool spring delayed fire season, though now, we are seeing hot and dry weather throughout most of the western states, which is rapidly drying the abundant vegetation and creating fuel for wildfires.” 

Due to a cool, wet spring season, wildfire activity has been below normal this year with 27,191 wildfires burning 3,325,456 acres. This is much lower than previous years as around 39,700 wildfires burned over 4.1 million acres at this point in the season last year and 5.8 million acres in 2017. 

Last year was one of the most tragic years on record with more than 58,000 wildfires burning over 8.8 million acres. Additionally, nearly 26,000 structures were destroyed, more than double the previous annual record.

The DOI is currently managing wildfire incidents in Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Washington, and has deployed personnel, aircraft, and equipment throughout the country to work with interagency firefighting partners.

Connect to Your Public Lands! National Public Lands Day -- September 28 - 08/08/19

Portland, Ore. – On Saturday, September 28, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be hosting numerous National Public Lands Day events across the region. All ages and abilities can get involved helping to restore, beautify, and improve the wild lands and recreation areas we all benefit from and enjoy. The BLM is committed to providing opportunities for Americans to connect or reconnect with our nation’s outdoors. 

All tools, safety equipment, and materials needed for the projects will be furnished by the BLM. In addition, volunteers who pitch-in at a National Public Lands Day project will receive a commemorative t-shirt and a “Fee-Free Coupon,” good for free admission to a federal site. The coupon can be used anytime during the following year at sites including those managed by the BLM, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Volunteers range from Girl Scouts and senior citizens to corporate executives and members of Congress they all have one thing in common:  enjoyment and appreciation for our public lands.  Volunteering on National Public Lands Day is a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends and enjoy the many benefits that come from connecting with nature.

Please note that some events may occur before or after September 28. A complete list of events planned throughout Oregon and Washington is below. Additional information about this year’s events are at:  https://www.neefusa.org/npld

1

Office: Burns District
Project: Radar Hill Off-Highway Vehicle Area
Date: September 6, 10:00am-3:00pm
Description: Improve and maintain high-use OHV recreation site. Volunteers will pickup trash and cleanup dump sites, install signs.
 

7

Office: Roseburg District
Project: Cow Creek Backcountry Byway
Date: September 12, 9:00am-2:00pm
Description: Clean up trash and litter along the specially designated backcountry byway.

 

2

Office: Coos Bay District
Project: Bastendorff Beach
Date: September 21, 9:00am-2:00pm
Description: Improved beach and wildlife conservation. Tasks include pulling Scotch broom and other weeds, trash pickup, planting native wildflower seeds and shrubs. 

 

8

Office: Roseburg District
Project: North Umpqua Trails
Date: August 23, 8:30am-1:30pm
Description: Maintenance and improvements to high-use non-motorized trail including pruning, cleaning water-bars and trail surface repairs.

 

3

Office: Lakeview District, Klamath Falls

Project: Wood River Wetland Restoration
Date: September 28, 10:00am-3:00pm
Description: Native plants restoration and wildlife habitat conservation; improve public access to river.

 

9

Office: Spokane District
Project: San Juan Islands National Monument
Date: September 28, 10:00am-3:00pm
Description: Clean-up the roadsides and beaches from summer high-use impacts. Focus on plastics and micro-plastic cleanup.

 

4

Office: Lakeview District
Project: Cox Pass Trailhead
Date: September 28, 8:00am-1:00pm
Description: Trailhead and trail maintenance; recreation access improvements.

10

Office: Spokane District
Project: Hungate Canyon Trail
Date: September 28, 9:00am-2:00pm
Description: Trailhead cleanup including painting and repairing information board, weed whacking, installing signs and trail maintenance.

 

5

Office: Medford District
Project: Rogue River Cleanup
Date: September 28, 8:00am-1:00pm
Description: River clean-up and restoration; land and water projects.

 

11

Office: Spokane District
Project: Fishtrap Loop Trail
Date: October 5, 8:00am-1:00pm
Description: Trail maintenance and restoration, installation of trail markers, benches and signs.  

 

6

Office: Medford District
Project: Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Date: October 5, 9:00am-2:00pm
Description: Site restoration (fence repair) and maintenance to decrease livestock trespass.

 

12

Office: Prineville District
Project: Little Canyon Mountain
Date: September 28, 10:00am-3:00pm
Description: Off-Highway Vehicle play area site cleanup for improved recreation. Tasks include pulling weeds and cleaning up trash.

 

 

13

Office: Northwest Oregon District
Project: West Eugene Wetlands
Date: September 28, 9:00am-2:00pm
Description: Wetlands site maintenance and restoration including invasive species removal, weeding, mulching and planting native plants.

16

Office: Vale District
Project: Owyhee River Below the Dam
Date: September 28, 7:00am-12:00pm
Description: Collect trash and debris along the river and roadway, install signs and other maintenance tasks.

 

14

Office: Northwest Oregon District
Project: Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
Date: September 28, 10:00am-3:00pm
Description: Various projects including beach trash cleanup, invasive ivy and beach grass pulling, graveling trail, and historic garden maintenance.

17

Office: National Historic Oregon Trail
Interpretive Center
Project: Oregon Trail Maintenance
Date: September 28, 9:00-12:00pm
Description: Weed and trash collection along the site's 4 miles of trail, plus site interpretation throughout.
 

15

Office: Prineville District
Project: Chimney Rock Campground
Date: September 28, 10:00am-3:00pm
Description: Improve campgrounds along the Lower Crooked River and maintain the Chimney Rock trail. Tasks will include table installation, weed pulling, installing interpretive signs and more.

 

 

 

Josh Tolman (Officer -Vale Fire and Ambulance), Jess Tolman (Fire Chief - Vale Fire and Ambulance), Brent Meisinger (East Side BLM/USFS Fire Operations and Rural Fire Readiness Coordinator), Cody Bates (Assistant Fire Operations Supervisor - Vale BLM)
Josh Tolman (Officer -Vale Fire and Ambulance), Jess Tolman (Fire Chief - Vale Fire and Ambulance), Brent Meisinger (East Side BLM/USFS Fire Operations and Rural Fire Readiness Coordinator), Cody Bates (Assistant Fire Operations Supervisor - Vale BLM)
BLM Transfers Fire Engine to the City of Vale (Photo) - 07/30/19

Portland, Ore. – The Bureau of Land Management has completed the transfer of a wildland fire engine to the City of Vale Fire and Ambulance Department to enhance their wildland firefighting capabilities. The engine was transferred under BLM’s new Rural Fire Readiness (RFR) program, which is designed to provide equipment to local wildland firefighting partners at no cost.

This week the City of Vale Fire and Ambulance picked up the 2002 Freightliner model 70 fire engine.  This model holds roughly 860 gallons of water and up to four firefighters. The City of Vale Fire and Ambulance has about 15 members and they cover an area of approximately 500 square miles.

"This is a win-win situation for BLM and the City of Vale. It will only enhance our already strong cooperative working relationship as it brings more fire resources to the fight regardless of jurisdiction," said BLM’s Rural Fire Readiness program lead, Brent Meisinger.

Cooperative partnerships between the BLM and local and rural fire departments, including Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, are crucial to remote wildfire response on private, state and federal lands affecting grazing, recreational, wildlife and other values important to local economies.

The BLM accepts applications from local fire departments and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations for available vehicles, equipment and supplies. The BLM will transfer excess items to local fire departments and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations during the fall and winter months, prior to the next fire season.

To receive wildland firefighting vehicles, equipment and supplies through the RFR program, local fire departments and Rangeland Fire Protection Associations must meet a number of requirements including:

  • Have an existing cooperative fire response agreement with the BLM;
  • Serve a rural community or area;
  • Have wildland fire protection responsibilities; and
  • Be in close proximity to BLM-administered lands and respond to wildland fires in support of BLM when available and as needed

Information on the BLM fire program can be found on the Oregon/Washington fire website: https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/regional-info/oregon-washington

For information on the BLM’s RFR program, please contact Brent Meisinger at (541) 219-6031, or by email at: bmeising@blm.gov.

-BLM-

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $96 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2017. These activities supported more than 468,000 jobs.