Chantilly, Va. –
Fire Chief Thomas Jenkins, IAFC president and chairman of the board, testified today before a Congressional panel that the IAFC is concerned about the escalating costs and damages caused by wildland fires. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were approximately 71,500 wildland fires reported last year, which burned almost 10 million acres. This was an increase of more than 80 percent over the amount of acreage burned in 2016.
Jenkins, chief of the City of Rogers Fire Department (Arkansas), testified before the House subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
of the committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on the impact of the 2017 wildland fires.
“2017 was a record year in which the federal government spent $2.9 billion on wildland-fire suppression,” Jenkins testified. “This amount is approximately 84% more than the $1.6 billion that was spent in 2008. The nation cannot continue to absorb these growing costs.”
The IAFC agrees with the committee’s interest in reducing the cost of natural disasters, Jenkins said, expressing support of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (H.R. 4460), which incentivized states and localities to take steps to mitigate the risk of disaster. For wildland fires, the IAFC supports the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.
The IAFC is especially focused on promoting community preparedness, improved response capability and mitigation.
“The IAFC urges localities to develop community wildfire protection plans,” Jenkins said. “These plans identify and mitigate wildland-fire risks. They also can guide federal hazardous-fuels reduction projects and prioritize federal funding.”
The IAFC’s Ready, Set, Go! Program
is designed to promote community preparedness. It is a partnership with the USDA Forest Service. RSG helps communities develop mitigation plans (Ready), teach them to be situationally aware (Set), and act early following personal wildland-fire action plans (Go).
“As partners with other community organizations, RSG fire departments and fire districts engage in activities including webcasts, fuel reduction, youth outreach, civic events, home assessments, and door-to-door smoke alarm campaigns,” Jenkins said. “Currently, there are 1,803 RSG members in all 50 states.”
An effective response is key to controlling the cost of wildland fires. Jenkins testified that the IAFC believes that there is a need for well-vetted qualifications based on NWCG 310-1 for response staffing and resources.
“However, we also support efforts to recognize prior learning and structural firefighting skills for wildland firefighting duties,” he said. “The IAFC also is leading efforts to improve mutual aid agreements in the response to wildland fires. Fire departments depend on assistance from neighbors and even other states to assist them during major fires. The National Mutual Aid System
was designed by the IAFC, InterMedix, and ESRI to help fire departments visualize in real-time where resources are and improve decisions when deploying them.”
Read Jenkins full testimony
About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more