Certain Forests Adopt 'Let it Burn' Policy

Mar 8, 2013 7:44 PM

The controversial fire management practice that caused last summer's Reading fire could become more widespread.

The US Forest Service is considering a let it burn policy as a way to save money.

Last year the forest service spent 400-million dollars over budget during a busy fire season. Now, instead of attacking fires right away, the agency’s chief plans to let certain fires burn.

It's the same practice that is blamed for last summer’s massive Reading fire.

“I think the one thing that why the public was so upset, and rightfully so, is because it did get out of our containment,” Lassen Park Superintendent Darlene Koontz explained in August.

The Reading fire was allowed to burn to clear out "understory" and to promote the health of the forest. But the practice came under scrutiny when the fire spread and devoured more than 28,000 acres and cost 17-million dollars to fight.

“I think what happened is it quickly got out of the parks control. And I think they would say not quickly. From the end of July till August 5th or 6th is when it really blew up and got out of control,” said Shasta County Supervisor Pam Giacomini on the phone Friday afternoon.

So what's to prevent the same thing from happening under the new Forest Service policies? The Forest Service says their policies have not changed. They say last year they were on high alert, this year they're not.

Action News received an emailed statement from U.S. Forest Service TomTidwell, explaining in part "We always look at the conditions that exist around each fire season, our available resources, and then provide guidance to the field....So last year we asked forests to elevate decisions on wildfires to the regional forester. Based on this year's projections, we no longer see that as a necessary step at this time."

The saving grace for people that experience the reading fire is that managed burns will not be allowed the Lassen or Shasta-Trinity National Forests.

They will only be allowed in 8 forests in California; Klamath, Modoc, Sequoia, Sierra, Stanislaus, Mendocino, Inyo and El Dorado.

So it appears the forest service is just going back to policies of previous years.


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