Feds Shift Fire Policy

By KBJR News 1

August 6, 2012 Updated Aug 6, 2012 at 6:21 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northlands NewsCenter)
-- There are new changes in the way fires will be fought on federal land, at least for now. The United States Forest Service is shifting its forest fire strategy, close to a year after the Pagami Creek Fire burned 93,000 wilderness acres.

The summer of 2012 has been the summer of fire. All across the country, wild land fires have been popping up, destroying thousands of acres of land and draining the government of millions of dollars.

"The fire behavior that we see is extreme; it is unprecedented so we're always trying to learn what is the new scenario," said Superior National Forest Supervisor Brenda Halter.

The new scenario; a drought stricken summer, is prompting federal officials to change their game when it comes to fighting fire.

"At this case we are looking nationally what is the situation and we are saying whatever is possible," said Kris Reichenbach with the Superior National Forest. "Where we have a choice, we want to conserve our resources, our fire fighting resources."

"This is just a temporary shift, given the available of resources that we have to fight fire because of the extreme conditions across the county," said Halter.

The shift is to take an aggressive approach to wild land fire on federal land like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness--stomping out small blazes before they pick up steam--instead of the traditional approach of using natural fire to manage resources. That policy was initiated because experts say in many cases fire can be good for a forest.

"Because we have been putting out some of these small fires we have a situation where really catastrophic fires can occur...This is a temporary policy which we appreciate. The long term policy of allowing small fires will remain in place," said Ian Kimmer with the Friends of the Boundary Waters.

So, until the weather changes and the rain starts to fall, expect more tanker drops and less smoke, on federal land.

Federal Officials say this temporary policy change has nothing to do with the management of the Pagami Creek Fire last Fall.