WPR News
10:14 am
Thu February 26, 2004

A Case for Fighting Fewer Wildfires

Eugene, OR – Last summer, the US Forest Service fought wildfires on almost 1.5 Million acres and allowed about 300,000 acres to burn naturally. That breakdown needs to change, according to the group Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, which thinks too many fires are fought. Executive Director Andy Stahl admits the Forest Service is making modest strides to allow more fires to burn, but believes too many firefighters are put at risk for blazes that don't threaten homes. Stahl thinks there should be a policy to guide the agency on when to fight a fire. He says the default position now is to fight a fire. In addition to the risk to firefighters, Stahl says the agency's policy is unnecessarily expensive. During last summer's wildfire season, the Forest Service spent its entire firefighting budget before mid-August and firefighting efforts cost nearly $1 Billion. Stahl says the Forest Service is exposing firefighters to unneeded risk by fighting fires that don't even threaten homes. He points to a fire in central Idaho last summer, where two firefighters died. Stahl says no homes were near the blaze and that forest ecology is better there now because of the fire.