Dover Bitch

Monday, July 07, 2008


Another outstanding result of Republican rule:

The federal firefighting system is "imploding" in California, due to poor spending decisions and high job vacancy rates, as the region struggles to keep pace with what looks to be a historic fire season, a firefighters' advocacy group charges.

As a result, the firefighters say, small fires have exploded into extended, multimillion-dollar conflagrations because the U.S. Forest Service has been unable to contain them during the early "initial attack" stage.

"The federal fire system is imploding in California. They are crossing their fingers and just hoping they get through the season without a disaster," said Casey Judd, who represents government firefighters from five agencies through the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association.


Of all the agencies battling California wildland fires — including the region's two largest, the Indians and Basin fires in Monterey County's Los Padres National Forest — it is U.S. Forest Service crews that suffer the highest vacancy rates, entering this year's season with an estimated shortage of 500 firefighters, Judd said. Fully staffed, the region has authorized a force of 4,432 firefighters for the season.

Last year, the Forest Service's Southern California region lost 47 percent of its newly hired firefighting work force, according to a Forest Service report.

"We acknowledge some national forests areas in California have retention challenges, but we believe these situations are manageable," Forest Service overseer Mark Rey said in testimony before a Senate committee on wildfire preparedness last month.


Judd's group maintains that investing more in prevention and suppression would pay for itself with faster fire containment and lower outsourcing costs. He and others have speculated that under Rey — a Bush appointee with a long career in the timber industry — the Forest Service appears to want to get out of the firefighting business altogether by simply outsourcing more fire contracts to states and cities.

UPDATE: More here

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