Stimulus bill: $850,000,000 for wildland fire management

The economic stimulus bill that was passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday included $850,000,000 for wildland fire management and related activities, as well as a shitload of money, $3,475,000,000, for construction and capital improvements for the five major federal land management agencies. There will no doubt be some changes as the bill goes through the Senate and a conference committee, but below is some data (direct quotes) from the latest version according to OpenCongress.org.

HERE is an interactive map that shows the allocation of the funds in the entire bill for each state.

U. S. Forest Service

‘Wildland Fire Management’, $850,000,000, of which $300,000,000 is for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health, wood to energy grants and rehabilitation and restoration activities on Federal lands, and of which $550,000,000 is for State fire assistance hazardous fuels projects, volunteer fire assistance, cooperative forest health projects, city forest enhancements, and wood to energy grants on State and private lands.

‘Capital Improvement and Maintenance’, $650,000,000, for reconstruction, capital improvement, decommissioning, and maintenance of forest roads, bridges and trails; alternative energy technologies, energy efficiency enhancements and deferred maintenance at Federal facilities; and for remediation of abandoned mine sites, removal of fish passage barriers, and other critical habitat, forest improvement and watershed enhancement projects on Federal lands and waters.

National Park Service

‘Construction’, $1,700,000,000, for projects to address critical deferred maintenance needs within the National Park System, including roads, bridges and trails, and for other critical infrastructure projects.

Bureau of Land Management

‘Construction’, $325,000,000, for priority road, bridge, and trail repair or decommissioning, critical deferred maintenance projects, facilities construction and renovation, hazardous fuels reduction, and remediation of abandoned mine or well sites.

Bureau of Indian Affairs

‘Construction’, $500,000,000, for priority repair and replacement of schools, detention centers, roads, bridges, employee housing, and critical deferred maintenance projects.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

‘Construction’, $300,000,000, for priority road and bridge repair and replacement, and critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects on National Wildlife Refuges, National Fish Hatcheries, and other Service properties.

There is a 2-year "window of opportunity" following devasting fire

A study conducted after a fire burned 204 homes in Kelowna, British Columbia in 2003 found that there is a 2-year window of opportunity during which there is an increased interest in adopting new mitigation strategies. Here is an excerpt from an article in canadianunderwriter.ca:

The 2003 Kelowna, B.C., wildfires created a two-year window of opportunity in which public and private interest in adopting and improving mitigation strategies was heightened, an Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) study found.
The ICLR released a major study evaluating the measures taken by the City of Kelowna to mitigate the impacts of the September 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park Fire and prevent a repeat of such an event. The fire had destroyed 240 homes in the city.

 

Dan Sandink, manager of resilient cities and research at ICLR, found through interviewing city officials that various mitigation measures were developed or improved during the two-year window following the fire, including post-wildfire flood risk.

But, litigation brought against the city as a result of the fire served to reduce Kelowna’s ability to implement new mitigation strategies during the window of opportunity, an ICLR release says.

Power company sues their customers after burning down their houses

San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), whose powerlines have been identified by CalFire investigators as causing the devastating Witch and Rice fires that burned large areas of eastern San Diego County in 2007, have said they intend to sue 14 of their customers whose homes burned in the fires. More than 1,100 homes and 197,000 acres burned, but SDG&E claims that the homeowners “failed to maintain property in respect to brush clearance”. The power company’s strategy is a countersuit to offset the suits of their customers who lost their homes.

Some of the homeowners are understandably stunned by this development.

This is like, for instance, if someone had a vicious dog who escaped through an improperly maintained fence, then attacked you and caused serious injury. Could the dog owner sue you for not carrying a weapon so you could have fought off the dog just before it attacked you?

As Wildfire Today reported on January 25, there are a gazillion lawsuits related to these fires. which so far are keeping over 150 lawyers gainfully employed and involve $1 billion.

Attorneyatlaw.com has more details.

HERE is a link to a map of the Witch fire.

UPDATE: January 30 @ 2:03 MT

As we have written in the past, we are strong advocates of the Prepare, Stay, and Defend program, for less flammable building materials, for property owners to maintain a fire safe environment around their structures, and for firefighters not being forced into unsafe situations fighting fire at unprepared homes. But if it turns out to be the case, as it appears now, that the fire was caused by negligence of the power company, it is unconscionable for them to sue their customers whose homes would not have burned down if the power company had not started the fire.

Wildfire news, January 29, 2009

Water powered jet pack

A new way to use fire hose.


 

Montana: Man sentenced for starting fire

Chad Truscott, 20, was ordered to pay $763,000 in restitution for starting a fire near Helena, Montana in 2007 with a homemade firework. After being originally charged with felony criminal endangerment he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of negligent arson. The fire burned 44 acres, destroyed two vacant homes, and required the evacuation of about 500 residents.

Mr. Truscott’s homemade firework consisted of a pipe welded to a steel plate. Inside the pipe was flash powder from dismantled fireworks with newspaper stuffed on top of the flash powder.

The judge ordered Mr. Truscott, who is in college, to work full-time during the summer in order to begin paying the restitution.

Video of close call on vehicle fire

It looks like these firefighters did everything right. However, something, a piece of the front bumper or a portion of a tire, explodes off of this burning Volvo in Florida.

1981 report about the Internet

Here is an interesting report from a San Francisco television station in 1981 about this new thing called the “Internet”, and how you could download the daily newspaper, called the “telepaper”, in only 2 hours at a cost of $5 an hour.

The report concludes by saying that a newspaper vendor need not worry about being out of a job. Well, the day has finally come when newspaper vendors ARE worried, after newspapers are about to start falling like dominos. We are increasingly getting our “telepapers” news via the Internet, while lucrative print ads in newspapers are drying up as subscriptions to the paper versions decline.

What can brown (vegetation) do for you?

Freezing weather in parts of Florida is adding to the available fuel load in some areas. The rare three-day freeze killed off grass and other vegetation near Lakeland in Polk County, adding to the possible future workload of firefighters.

Their Keetch Byram Drought Index, and indicator of drought, is at 624, which translates to a severe danger of fires being difficult to suppress.

More information is at theledger.com

 

LYLE COMBEE, a firefighter with the Florida Department of Forestry, surveys a brush fire off Old Grade Road early Tuesday just east of Polk City. Photo: Jeremy Maready, The Ledger