Saturday, June 03, 2023

A thank you to the men and women who battled the summer fires

by Usfs Regional Forester Tom Tidwell
| September 12, 2007 12:00 AM

One of the lessons this wildfire season has taught us is to expect the unexpected. Our season began earlier than expected, our fires were more resistant to control than expected, and tens of thousands of people from the U.S. and beyond worked longer and harder than expected to help deal with fire.

To all of you, my sincere thanks.

Thank you to the men and women who have helped us manage nature's elemental force, fire. You have put out 97 percent of new fire starts, allowing concentrated attention on those that escaped to become large fires. You have done your work efficiently, effectively, tirelessly, and most of all safely.

Thank you to the elected officials, administrators, agencies, and departments - paid and volunteer - whose cooperative spirit makes this partnership possible. The wildfire job looms too large for any of us to cope, much less succeed, alone. You have made the difference.

Thank you to the people in harm's way. You have made your homes more defensible. You have evacuated, returned, and in some cases evacuated again. You have shown genuine appreciation to those who protected lives and property. In those rare instances where homes and structures were lost, we all share a sense of loss and frustration.

Thank you to the reporters and photographers who have helped tell this fire season's stories. You have kept people informed with breaking news from individual fires as well as providing in-depth discussions of strategy, climate, and weather.

Thank you to the people who live, work, and play in the Northern Rockies. You have endured days and nights of smoke-filled valleys. You have complied with the inconvenience of restrictions and closures. You have been patient as fire suppression strategy and tactics evolved with changing conditions. Together, we now understand that these experiences may be what we expect in the future.

As we continue to experience warmer climates, drier fuels, more erratic fire behavior, and increasing home construction in the wildland-urban interface, I still believe we are making progress in reducing wildfire threats to communities.

Once again this year we have seen numerous examples where fuel treatments significantly moderated fire behavior, reducing the risk to firefighters and increasing the effectiveness of our fire suppression efforts. But, to keep pace with the changing conditions, we need to continue to treat more areas every year.

Since we now expect the unexpected, we should not be surprised if fire season continues into winter and spring. The flames may be out, but conditions will be right for ongoing discussions about prescribed fire, fire response, working and living in fire-prone areas, restoration needs, and talking about fire less often in terms of combat and more often in terms of connection. I hope you will feel encouraged to share your views in those discussions.

Thanks again…for the expected and the unexpected.