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Agriculture and Interior Secretaries stress wildfire preparedness

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) on May 13, 2013 to explain the Federal Government’s commitment to improving American defenses against wildfires and encourage communities to prepare for the coming fire season.

The secretaries described cooperative efforts to pre-position firefighting units and equipment to ensure the protection despite budget limitations. Currently, the Federal Government employs more than 13,000 firefighters and possesses more than 1,600 engines and hundreds of aircraft. Composed of firefighting experts from various government agencies, NIFC provides constant monitoring of fire-related conditions and strategically places resources to protect at-risk regions from wildfires.  

In 2013, the wildfire season is expected to be above average throughout the Western United States. More than 9.3 million acres burned in 2012, the third highest number since 1960, when reliable records started being compiled.

"When fires burn uncontrolled in our nation's wildlands, it means the loss of our homes, businesses, personal possessions, and all too often, lives," said Ernie Mitchell, U.S. Fire Administrator. "As the men and women of our nation's firefighting forces prepare for this year's wildfire season, they need your help. By taking simple fire prevention steps, you will not only protect yourself and your families, but also the firefighters who put their lives in harm's way to fight wildfires. Remember, fire is everyone's fight."

Secretaries Vilsack and Jewell explained most wildfires are caused by humans and urged people in the 70,000 at-risk communities to improve safety by proactively preparing for fires.

Protect employees and facilities by having a fire-free area around a business, knowing the local fire history, and providing fire safety equipment to prevent small fires from getting out of control. Create a wildfire protection plan that includes evacuation procedures, and stock emergency burn relief first aid supplies in the event an injury does occur.