Feds Call Reinforcements for Wildfires
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 12:18 AM EDT
The Associated Press
By CHRISTOPHER SMITH
BOISE, Idaho (AP) Federal land management agencies are being asked
to make more employees available to fight wildfires because crews and
equipment have been stretched to the limit by nearly 60 major blazes
around the West.
For the first time since 2003, the National Interagency Fire Center
over the weekend raised its response status to the highest threat
level, a move triggered when nearly all available crews and
firefighting resources are committed.
The move allows federal firefighting coordinators to summon additional
federal employees, military reinforcements and foreign fire crews if
"It frees up what we call the militia agency employees whose regular
job may be as a biologist or realty specialist but who are trained in
fire duty and can now be called up to help," said Randy Eardley, a
U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman at the federal firefighting
center in Boise.
More than 24,000 firefighters were working on fires across the West on
Monday, including 58 large fires of 500 acres or more.
The biggest active fire in the country was in northern Nevada, where
nearly 300 square miles of grass and sagebrush had burned. It was 10
percent contained Monday, and fire bosses had no estimate when it
would be surrounded.
No homes were in immediate danger, though one outbuilding had been
destroyed, said Jamie Thompson of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
in Winnemucca, Nev.
More people were told to evacuate Monday from areas south of Chadron,
Neb., on the fourth day of fires that have scorched nearly 80 square
About 45 to 50 people were affected by the latest evacuation orders,
and hundreds of others evacuated over the weekend were kept from their
Four rural houses have been destroyed and several more damaged since
lightning sparked the fires last week.
In Montana, more firefighters, equipment and aircraft arrived Monday
as crews fought to corral a fire that blew up rapidly in Glacier
National Park over the weekend, fanned by strong winds and blistering
Firefighters got some relief Monday with calmer winds and lower
temperatures, but officials said the fire estimated at 34 square
miles still posed a threat to the gateway community of St. Mary.
The blaze came within a mile of the town over the weekend. The
National Park Service on Sunday evacuated its administrative site
there, as well as several area campgrounds.
Most of the park remained open to visitors, officials said.
Residents of a subdivision in central Oregon were allowed to return
late Monday as crews tamed a fire there, though evacuation orders
remained in effect for another 500 residents of two subdivisions near
the tourist town of Sisters.
The subdivisions appear to be protected from the 14-square mile fire,
which is 30 percent contained, said Scott Brayton, a fire spokesman.
An evacuation order was also lifted for several dozen residents near
Weaverville in northern California after a wildfire that destroyed one
home calmed down.
In Idaho, a 5-square-mile fire in the mountains fed on bug-killed
evergreen stands as it neared a cluster of vacation homes and a mining
More than 70,600 timber and range fires have burned on federal land so
far this year, higher than the 10-year average of 50,984, according to
the National Interagency Fire Center. Because of unusually large
early-season range fires in Texas and Oklahoma, the acreage burned so
far in 2006 is 5.5 million, compared with a 10-year average of 3
million acres for the same period.
Associated Press Writer Sandra Chereb in Reno, Nev., contributed to