The Department of the Interior deeply regrets the tragic loss of four wildland firefighters on July 10 in Washington State and has an established policy that never puts the Endangered Species Act in front of a response to emergency situations where human lives are at risk.
Within the last 24 hours there have been allegations that requirements under the Endangered Species Act caused delays in responding to the Thirtymile Fire that resulted in the deaths of these firefighters.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wishes to clarify that wildland fires represent an emergency under the Endangered Species Act and that in no circumstances is emergency response to be delayed or obstructed because of Endangered Species Act considerations.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy expressly states, “Under no circumstances should a Service representative obstruct an emergency response decision….where human life is at stake.”
In the case of the Thirtymile Fire, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service officials were informed of Forest Service procedures to suppress ongoing fires on July 10 during an interagency briefing on local fires at the Wenatchee/Okanagan National Forest Office in Wenatchee, Washington. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service did not impose any limitations on the effort to fight the Thirtymile Fire.