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NAPA Report

Title Page



Executive Summary

Enhancing Local Firefighting Capacity

Panel Conclusions and Recommendations



NASF Report

Executive Summary


An Overview of Rural and Volunteer Fire Departments

Issues and Recommended Actions



Appendices Case Studies





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

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