Firebomber Publications Blog

Wildfire News Of The Day (the Firebomber Publications blog) provides comprehensive international wildfire news. Subscribers include over 10,000 personnel from fire agencies, contractors, and government entities on five continents. "BEST NEWSLETTER I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY 32 YEARS IN THE FIRE SERVICE" - San Diego Fire Department Chief Brian Fennessy.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Washington Post ran an article 11/5/05 about some of the fallout from the pork-filled Transportation Bill (Some in GOP Regretting Pork-Stuffed Highway Bill). A few days before, USAToday ran an article on proposed cuts to the wildfire budget (Democrats Criticize Katrina Cuts To Firefighting Funds). A friend of mine who flies air-tankers commented on this topic by way of the following memo he had received from USFS about funding cuts to air-tanker resources:

USDA Forest Service
Fire and Aviation Management
Briefing Paper
Date: October 5, 2005
Topic: Constraining WFSU Funds for Aviation

Issue: Utilization of WFSU for aviation resources has been constrained by an OMB Footnote in the Agency's FY 2006 Wildland Fire Apportionment. The constraint will adversely affect the Agency's ability to suppress wildfire and significantly hinder relationships with cooperators.

Background: OMB inserted the following language in the Apportionment: "Not more than $100 million of suppression funds is available for acquisition of aviation resources five days after submission of an Exhibit 300". The Agency utilizes suppression funds for initial attack and large fire support aviation resources. The Agency is preparing an Exhibit 300 for aviation resources, but it is not complete at this time.

Key Points:
Exhibit 300: The Forest Service awarded a contract in September 2005 to complete an Exhibit 300 for all Forest Service aircraft. Phase I of the contract includes airtankers and is scheduled for completion in March 2006. The scheduled completion date for all aircraft is February 2007.
* Requiring an Exhibit 300 prior to expending funds will effectively shutdown the Forest Service's aviation program in FY 2006 with the exception of some limited use of airtankers late in the fiscal year.
* Implications of this action would be those stated below, only increased in magnitude until such time as the Exhibit 300 was completed.
Funding Constraint: Aviation traditionally accounts for approximately thirty percent of total suppression expenditures, in FY 2005 these cost were $180 million through September 21, 2005.
* A spending limitation of $100 million dollars reduces capability 50 to 75 percent. The reduction would eliminate use of a significant portion of the fleet and would be necessary to assure that the remaining aircraft are managed and operated safely and efficiently.
Implications: The requirement of an Exhibit 300 pre expenditure of funds or implementation of the funding constraint has significant implications to Forest Service and cooperators' suppression activities, including:
* Reduced initial attack success rate; the current rate of 99% could be expected to drop into the low 90's resulting in additional large fires (those greater than three hundred acres).
* Increased loss of government and private property. Some of this loss could be mitigated through ground based resources subject to availability and timing of the incident.
* Increased resource damage and environmental impacts such as: loss of habitat and air and water quality degradation.
* Increased demand for ground based Agency and cooperator resources to respond to larger and longer duration fires.
* Reduced capability to support federal partners and state, county, and local governments due to loss of aviation capability and resulting increased demand for ground based resources.
Contact: Bill Breedlove, Branch Chief, Fire Planning, 202-205-0996

I guess my question is: Do we really need a bridge to the Ketchican Airport for $223 million dollars at the same time more worthy projects like the wildfire fund that protects millions of peoples' homes are being robbed to pay the bill for Katrina cleanup? Let me know what you think at