USA: Wildfires foresight

Wildfires foresight

09 December 2004
(published by News Miner)


Talking about wildfire at 20 below zero? Some might see it as nutty, but itis nevertheless likely to happen at tonight’s meeting of the Fairbanks NorthStar Borough Assembly.

The assembly will be considering Mayor Jim Whitaker’s proposal to create a60-day commission to assess how government agencies responded to the Boundaryand Wolf Creek fires of last summer and to make recommendations for improvingthe response should such a calamity strike again. The commission would becharged with conducting a full review of the actions of the local, state andfederal governments.

Creating the Wildland Fire Commission, which the assembly is urged to do,could go a long way to allaying concerns aired by residents during the firesiege. For many of those residents, the fire’s closeness likely made them awareof fire management issues that they previously had little pressing reason to beconcerned with. Some probably had little idea about the varying levels of firesuppression, for example.

And even in the remote chance the commission members would make norecommendations for improvement, the panel’s mere existence and its holding ofhearings still would serve the purpose of further educating residents about theoften-tricky business of wildland fire management and prevention.

The assembly should embrace the mayor’s proposal.

Additional news this week also should give residents reason to feel betterabout the fire future.

A leading official in the state Division of Forestry said recently that aseries of meetings held following the 2004 fire season–the most consuming fireseason in state history–likely will lead to changes in protection areadesignations and in how information is given to the public. Both were items ofcomplaint during the fires, which raged well beyond the Fairbanks North StarBorough. State and federal fire managers say they will provide the public with areport on their findings and have it available by March.

Fire, like humans, will always be a part of the Alaska landscape. The effortsof state and federal officials and the formation of the Wildland Fire Commissionshould improve how the two coexist.




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