U.S. Forest Service’s ‘New Direction’

A sharper focus on small forest fires will let the U.S. Forest Service be more aggressive when managing wildfires from the get-go, before they become a major threat to nearby communities. The forests here in Oregon are no stranger to wildfires, but so far this summer, local forest service crews haven’t had to deal with any fires where this new direction by the U.S. Forest Service would apply just yet. The dangerously dry temperatures across the country, and the larger wildfires that threaten the west, are the reasons they just issued a nationwide change in strategy when it comes to evaluating forest fires.

Spokesman Joe Walsh says normally wildfires are managed without machines, power chainsaws and helicopters. This new direction changes that, to deal with what Walsh calls exceptional conditions.

“Because of our concern about these fires getting out of control, we are using helicopters with water buckets, if it’s necessary, the firefighters on the ground are allowed to use chainsaws,” says Walsh.

Walsh says as soon as drought-like conditions subside throughout the country, the Forest Service will evaluate going back to its original policy, managing smaller forest fires with hand crews. Locally, both the Willamette National Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry say they assess every small fire individually, then decide how to manage it.

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