Local Firefighting Capacity
Conclusions and Recommendations
An Overview of Rural and
Volunteer Fire Departments
Issues and Recommended Actions
Appendices – Case Studies
WILDLAND FIRE COSTS:
UTILIZING LOCAL FIREFIGHTING FORCES
Congress and the Administration are very concerned about the escalating
costs of wildfire suppression, which exceeded $1 billion in 2000 and 2002.
In 2002, the Academy’s Wildfire Panel concluded that one of the
best opportunities to reduce suppression costs is to make better use of
local firefighting resources for initial and extended attack, for mop-up
and rehabilitation, and for smoother transitions between management teams.
The Panel believes that the costs of wildfire suppression could be reduced
if wildfire-prone communities had dedicated, locally available firefighting
teams qualified for these purposes.
Local fire departments—paid and unpaid, urban and rural—are
a huge potential resource for wildfire suppression. While federal agencies
employ only 16,000 full-time and seasonal firefighters, the nation’s
local fire departments have over one million, nearly three-quarters of
whom are volunteers. These local firefighters are needed to staff dedicated
local teams, but barriers to wildfire training and qualification often
prevent them from being used to fight wildfires. Not using local firefighters
raises suppression costs by forcing federal agencies to use more costly
resources that must be moved over long distances, causing additional expense
and delay. In this report, the Panel recommends specific steps that the
Wildland Fire Leadership Council and others can take to increase the availability
of local forces to fight wildfires and improve suppression response.
This report is the fifth of six wildfire reports prepared by the Academy
between August 2000-January 2004. Those published previously have made
findings and recommendations to help improve wildfire risk assessments,
interagency coordination, containment of wildfire suppression costs, and
the efficiency of contracting for wildland fire equipment and services.
The final report of the series will recommend improvements in reducing
wildfire hazards in wildlands as well as communities at risk.
The Academy is pleased to present this report to the Congress, the Department
of the Interior, and the USDA Forest Service. It thanks the federal agencies
for their support of this study and their cooperation in preparing it.
Formal comments received from the agencies have been incorporated. The
Academy Panel directing this study and the project staff are to be commended
for their outstanding job in developing the cost-saving strategies recommended.
We believe these recommendations are practical, effective, and consistent
with the President’s Management Agenda.
C. Morgan Kinghorn, Jr.
National Academy of Public Administration