Letter Re: Preparing Your Retreat For a Forest Fire or Brush Fire, by F.A.

In the article “Preparing Your Retreat For a Forest Fire or Brush Fire” by F.A., the author states “In reality though, the gap exists because the Forest Service policy was to fight every fire. I’m not meaning to offend anyone, but I believe they got caught up in the same ‘spend it or lose it’ budget planning that has helped bury this country in debt. Their policy was to extinguish any reported fire by 10:00 AM the following morning. Imagine the resources necessary to accomplish this goal. Even in the primitive areas, then designated wilderness areas after the passage of the Wilderness Act in the 1970s, every fire was fought”.
I’ve worked for the US Forest Service for over 24 years, and this is a sad misrepresentation of firefighting policy.  The US Forest Service did not have a spend it or lose it policy for firefighting – we had a policy based upon a faulty understanding of fire ecology.  This began to change as early as the 1950s, and continued to gain momentum in subsequent decades.  We still aggressively suppress fires in the urban interface but we draw large boxes around lightning-caused fires in the backcountry and manage them for fuel reduction as appropriate.  By the way, fuel reduction isn’t a “spend it or lose it” proposition either, it comes out of the local budget at the expense of planned projects.
When the author says that he did not mean to offend anyone, he in fact did.  Firefighters die every year protecting homes and natural resources.  Many of us have decades of experience, and are not as ignorant or greedy as the author apparently believes.  If the author realized how little funding the US Forest Service actually receives, perhaps he could write a more credible article.  He should look at a pie chart of Federal expenditures.  The wedge of the pie the US Forest Service receives cannot be discerned.  That wedge continues to decrease: the fiscal year 2013 budget is bleak, and projections for fiscal year 2014 are worse.  Ignorance is turning the US Forest Service into a caretaker agency.  Perhaps we should let wildfires burn for a few years in order to gain some level of appreciation.  Many of us are awfully tired of sleeping in the dirt and inhaling smoke. Sincerely, – P.F., (PhD in forest ecology, firefighter, conservative, and Christian)