Thursday, December 06, 2012

U.S. Forest Chief Says Wildfires to Get More Destructive

If you think fires have gotten big in the past few years, hold on. U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said Friday that the blazes will only get bigger and that the cost of fighting them could nearly double. But the agency that manages 193 million acres of national forest -- including 20 million in Idaho -- plans to increase timber sales by 20 percent in the next two years as part of a restoration effort to make communities safer and watersheds more resilient. Wildfires have burned in excess of 8 million acres six times since 2004, a dramatic increase over the yearly totals seen in the past five decades. But Tidwell told the City Club of Boise that as many as 12 million to 15 million acres will burn annually now because of warming temperatures and drier years. This comes even as state, tribal and federal agencies put out 98 percent of all the fires that start, Tidwell said. Firefighters jump on those blazes as aggressively as they can, he said. "It's that 2 percent that become very large very quickly," Tidwell said. Today's fires are often so ferocious that managers won't risk putting crews in their path...more

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