Federal partners are working closely with first responders and firefighters from local, state, and tribal agencies to combat and monitor wildfires in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming as well as other states. Through the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates resources from the US Forest Service, Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, firefighters, incident management teams, airtankers, helicopters, fire engines and other resources are being provided to supplement state and local resources as teams continue to respond to fires across the West.
Today, 19 active large fires are burning in nine states, including one of the largest wildfire in New Mexico history and one of the largest wildfires in Colorado history. To help fight these damaging fires, federal agencies have made approximately 4,500 firefighters available to aid in efforts to suppress and contain the fires.
Yesterday, the Forest Service announced the agency has mobilized eight additional aircraft to its firefighting fleet to ensure that an adequate number of airtankers are available for wildland firefighting efforts. With these additional airtankers, the Forest Service has 16 large airtankers and one very large airtanker available immediately for wildfire suppression. The Forest Service has the capability to mobilize an additional 11 large airtankers, should circumstances require it.
Additionally, the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior fire agencies can mobilize hundreds of helicopters and dozens of smaller aircraft, called "single-engine airtankers."
To ensure states have the financial support they need, FEMA has provided Fire Management Assistance Grants to states with active large fires. These grants help cover eligible costs, on a 75 percent cost share basis, and can reimburse state and local costs associated with personnel and equipment used to combat fires. On Saturday June 9th, FEMA authorized the use of federal funds, through the Fire Management Assistance Grant Program (FMAG), to help with eligible firefighting costs for the High Park Fire located in Larimer County, Colorado and the Little Bear Fire located in Lincoln County, New Mexico. On May 26, an FMAG was approved for the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire located in New Mexico.
While extremely serious fires are burning in several states, to date the season has been below average, meaning that additional resources remain available should they be necessary.
"We continue to support our state, local, and tribal partners as they work to contain and suppress the wildfires burning in the West," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "Our fire managers are bringing extensive resources to bear to respond vigorously to those wildfires threatening lives, communities, and cultural and natural resources, and we stand ready to provide additional eligible resources as necessary."
"We're bringing the full range of our federal, tribal, state, local and non-governmental resources together to manage these wildland fires and reduce risk to communities," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "We remain vigilant and continue to do all we can to ensure the safety of all firefighters in this challenging wildlife season."
"FEMA continues to closely monitor the fires in several southwestern states, and is providing financial support through our Fire Management Assistance Grant program to assist efforts, led by firefighters, public safety officers, and emergency personnel, to fight and mitigate the volatile wildfire conditions," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
On average the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior bureaus respond to more than 20,000 wildfires per year. Federal firefighters, aircraft, and ground equipment are strategically assigned to parts of the country as the fire season shifts across the nation. Firefighting experts will continuously monitor conditions and move these assets as necessary to be best positioned and increase initial attack capabilities. In addition, federal agencies are conducting accelerated restoration activities nationwide that will result in healthier forests and will lessen fire risks in years to come.
Federal land managers are also helping communities prepare for wildfire. Federal partnerships with tribal, state, and local agencies strengthen preparedness programs, such as Firewise http://www.firewise.org/ and Ready Set Go! http://www.iafc.org/readySetGo that help families and communities prepare for and survive wildfire. You can also visit FEMA's Ready.gov http://www.ready.gov, to learn more about steps you and your family can take now to be prepared for an emergency.