The states’ role in wildland fire suppression

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Generally it’s the U.S. Forest Service and the other federal land management agencies that receive much of the attention when many wildfires are burning around the country. But a large portion of the credit for suppressing them should go to the fire organizations in the states. On Tuesday the National Association of State Foresters issued the following statement about their role.


NASF Wildland Fire Expert Addresses Current Fire Situation

WASHINGTON—As the western United States continues to experience significant wildland fire activity, state forestry agencies are working around-the-clock with their partners in fire suppression. State Foresters—the directors of state forestry agencies—allocate resources, ensure public information and safety, and provide technical expertise and personnel needed to fight fires safely and effectively.

State and local resources are first to respond to approximately 75 percent of all wildland fires in the United States. These agencies provide critical resources and experience to wildland fire management and suppression as part of the coordinated national wildfire response. State forestry agencies also support prevention and mitigation efforts to reduce the threat of fire in the first place.

Bob Harrington, Montana State Forester and chair of the National Association of State Foresters Wildland Fire Committee said today:

“The United States is facing significant fire activity in the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, California, and the Great Basin, and in the Southwest and Southern regions as well. This level of fire activity has not occurred since 2007, and firefighting resources are scarce despite sharing of resources across the country.”

“With evacuations, structures burning and communities and infrastructure at risk, the role of state forestry agencies has never been more critical. Of the more than 32,000 personnel currently assigned to large fires, a significant percentage are employed or mobilized by state forestry agencies.”

“In an average year, states typically deploy an average of $1.6 billion in personnel and resources towards the prevention, control, and management of wildfire.”

“In addition to the state supported response, state foresters work with the USDA Forest Service to deliver the State Fire Assistance and Volunteer Fire Assistance programs, which together provide resources to reduce hazardous fuels and to train and equip first responders. In fiscal year 2014 more than 102,000 firefighters received wildland fire training through these programs. Nearly 11,900 communities were assisted by SFA and VFA during this same time period.”

The National Association of State Foresters is comprised of the directors of state and territorial forestry agencies and the District of Columbia. NASF seeks to advance sustainable forestry, conservation, and protection of forestlands and their associated resources. Learn more at

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “The states’ role in wildland fire suppression”

  1. Bill ;
    You probably know 10 X as much as I’ll ever know about the characteristics of Wildfires . However ,I hope that you delve more into the politics of Firefighting .
    That said ,I respectfully think that some state foresters will occasionally dissent from Federal policies and attempt to do their jobs ,unobstructed . Montana is a fair example . There are converted Hueys [upgraded ] that the Feds. ,will not let fly because of the grossly restrictive safety policies . It should be the aviators and aviation companies that decide when their equipment is safe [ready and when flying conditions are proper for dropping fire retardant [ not some desk jockey in D.C. Same goes for heavy equipment owned by logging companies ,such as D -9 Cats , tree fallers ,etc . W e need to get back to using all of our available resources in exceptional times .

  2. The 102,000 number probably shrinks pretty quickly. Possibilities:
    –Some couldn’t get fire fighting jobs because of limited budgets of land management agencies, so wound up doing other work this season.
    –Some may be primarily structural firefighters.
    –Others may be part of type 2 or local crews that aren’t set up to travel.
    –Some may be volunteer fire fighters, who either can’t give up their jobs to travel far, or who have current wildland training but don’t meet pack test standards, or whose agencies don’t bother to red card their people.
    –Some may have been seasonals while in college and now have graduated and committed to careers.
    –Some may be recovering from injuries or feel that they’ve aged out of wildland work, or have committed to jobs where they can stay home, especially if they’re starting a family.
    –And maybe a few are in land management agencies where their bosses were reluctant to listen to the Moses letter.
    –And some people may even be available, but can’t afford to volunteer and travel unless an agency would sponsor their travel and subsistence, take care of their refresher training and pack test, and gear them up.
    Other possibilities?

  3. Stupid question, maybe. They’re at 32,000+ deployed – and are stretched to the max, to where Canada is helping and Washington is asking for volunteers.

    Where are those 102,000 firemen with wildland training from last year alone? Seems like now’d be a good time to put out a call to some of them.

    I assume they are part of who Washington was asking for to help, since the request thing said volunteers need at the least proof that they are in the physical condition required for a WFF, and I’m not sure how you’d prove that without having gone through the training or being military?

    (And I’m not sure even “just” military’d be enough! The WFF requirements remind me the most of the documentaries I’ve seen on becoming special forces.)

  4. Kudos for NASF for putting the facts out

    Easy to forget about the State that push their own programs and plenty of Fed programs and do well at it


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