Weather helps with projects in West

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

snow­pack year, a cool spring for much of it, and even get­ting [early] rain,” Ms. Sch­weizer said. “So cer­tainly those fac­tors are lead­ing to re­duced fire dan­ger.”

The dif­fer­ence is par­tic­u­larly stark in Cal­i­for­nia a year af­ter two record wild­fires: the Men­do­cino Com­plex Fire, the largest in state his­tory, which con­sumed 459,123 acres, and the Camp Fire, the most lethal, which re­sulted in 86 deaths.

The num­ber of acres torched by wild­fire is down 95% from this time last year and down 90% from the five-year av­er­age of 268,805, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from Cal Fire, the Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion.

In Colorado, the num­ber of acres burned is “sig­nif­i­cantly lower this year in com­par­i­son to the pre­vi­ous year,” said Ca­ley Fisher, a spokes­woman for the Colorado Divi­sion of Fire Pre­ven­tion and Con­trol.

Colorado had its se­cond-largest wild­fire in his­tory last year with the Spring Creek Fire, which burned 108,045 acres and de­stroyed 140 struc­tures. The hu­man­caused fire erupted in June and was not fully con­tained un­til Septem­ber.

This year, “we have not lost a res­i­dence. We have lost sheds, out­build­ings and the like, but not a res­i­den­tial prop­erty due to wild­fire,” Ms. Fisher said.

Not out of the woods

Of course, con­di­tions can change. The Santa Ana winds typ­i­cally bring hot, dry weather to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in au­tumn. The ex­tra mois­ture has pro­duced abun­dant grasses now dry­ing in the heat, “cre­at­ing fuel for wild­fires,” said Bryan Henry of the Na­tional In­ter­a­gency Fire Cen­ter.

That’s where for­est man­age­ment plans like the In­te­rior De­part­ment’s come in.

“As stew­ards of one-fifth of the coun­try’s pub­lic lands, pri­mar­ily in the West, we know that our abil­ity to be pre­pared for wild­fires and re­duce their sever­ity is paramount to pro­tect­ing com­mu­ni­ties and sav­ing lives,” In­te­rior Sec­re­tary David Bern­hardt said in a state­ment. “In col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal, state, and other fed­eral part­ners, we are us­ing ev­ery­thing in our ar­se­nal to pre­pare for wild­fires this year, treat­ing more than one mil­lion acres.”

The pres­i­dent’s ex­ec­u­tive order said the plan was aimed at re­duc­ing wild­fires by thin­ning for­est man­age­ment reg­u­la­tions, though en­vi­ron­men­tal groups ac­cused the ad­min­is­tra­tion of try­ing to muz­zle pub­lic in­volve­ment and boost the tim­ber in­dus­try.

De­spite those con­cerns, Mike An­der­son, a se­nior pol­icy an­a­lyst for the Wilder­ness So­ci­ety, said the In­te­rior De­part­ment’s wild­fire mit­i­ga­tion ac­tiv­i­ties are un­likely to raise much con­tro­versy.

“It’s been a rel­a­tively tame wild­fire sea­son so far, which has been kind of a re­lief, and hope­fully this will give In­te­rior and the For­est Ser­vice a chance to get out ahead of the wild­fire prob­lems,” Mr. An­der­son said.

In its first year un­der the order, the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, For­est Ser­vice and Bureau of Land Man­age­ment worked on

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