$10 Million U.S. Aid Urged to Help States Fight Forest Fires
A national wildfire control fund with an annual appropriation of $10 million is being urged by a task force sponsored by the American Forestry Association. The task force report also calls for the establishment of a national wildfire disaster board composed of the chief of the United States Forest Service, the director of the Bureau of Land Management and three members to be appointed by the President.
As suburbs encroach on forest lands, the report said, their fire departments are trained to fight structural fires, but not woods fires. Also, the task force report stated that firemen do not yet have all the research answers to successfully battle the increasing number of lightning fires and conflagrations originating from other causes. The problem is further complicated by a growing population that is using forests more than ever before, increasing the risk of forest fires caused by humans.
According to William E. Towell, chairman of the task force, the disaster board would advise the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, who would administer the national wildfire control fund. The money would be used to supplement state funds for fighting forest fires. The use of this money would be restricted to aiding states with fire disaster plans because emergency fire funds already are available for the use of the federal government, Towell explained.
A bill drafted to implement the task force’s proposals would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to use the wildfire control fund to pay for “the actual costs of control and suppression of disastrous or potentially disastrous fires on forests, range and intermingled agriculural lands by state fire protection agencies and organizations after their regular and emergency fire control resources have been exhausted or committed.” Money also would be spent to train “key personnel responsible for the suppression of wildfires of disaster proportions.”
The intent of the task force and the American Forestry Association is that the proposed fund be spent entirely for increased efforts to fight forest fires and not to make it possible for states to reduce their present appropriations for this purpose.