USDA Forest Service
Heidi Valetkevitch, 202-205-1134
CHIEF ASSESSES WILDFIRES OUT WEST
WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2000 -- USDA
Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, currently on
his way home after an extensive two-day tour assessing
the wildfires in Idaho and Montana, reinforced today
that the national wildfire suppression effort is
working according to the national strategy. Dombeck
made the evaluation at the direction of USDA Secretary
Dan Glickman, who oversees the Forest Service.
This has been a seamless operation and I
commend the more than 20,000 dedicated men and women
who are working so hard in this firefighting effort,
said Dombeck. This is as government and local
communities ought to work.
Dombeck has directed his senior leaders to immediately
begin identifying more than 60 strike team leaders,
experts in guiding firefighter crews, from within
the ranks of the agency. This action is in preparation
for possible expansion of military involvement.
In addition, Forest Service leadership will continue
to monitor and identify key resources as necessary
to support an expansion of firefighting efforts.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)in
coordination with 11 Geographic Area Coordination
Centersis executing a planned strategy to
guide use of available resources based on three
national priorities: firefighter and public safety;
initial attack on new fires; and protection of communities
Because firefighter and public safety is
our absolute number one concern, it is devastating
to hear of the loss of a life, expressed Dombeck,
referring to yesterdays helicopter accident
in Nevada where a pilot was killed and three people
were injured. My deepest condolences go out
to the pilots family members and loved ones.
(Names are being withheld pending notification of
Dombeck emphasized that NIFC has access to personnel,
equipment and supplies from countless sources, which
can be activated quickly and effectively.
We are grateful for the cooperative support
of our northern neighbor, Canada, who will be dispatching
10 firefighter teams in the next two days,
More than 95 percent of the fires on federal land
are being caught during initial attack.
The federal firefighting agencies knew this
spring that this years fire season could develop
into one of the most dangerous in many years,
said Dombeck. We have been preparing and the
planning has paid off.
Dombeck will give a full report on his findings
to USDA Secretary Dan Glickman.