U.S. Forest Service Moves Away From 'Fight All Fire' Policy

By Rachael McDonald

The US Forest Service is reversing its policy to aggressively fight all wildfires. This change was announced in a letter from Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last month.

In May 2012, Forest Service Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard issued a "fight all fire" directive. This may be why the feds spent more than $1 billion fighting fires last year. They came in $400 million over budget.

Timothy Inglesbee is Executive Director of Eugene-based Firefighters United for Safety Ethics and Ecology. He says fires are actually good for the forest.

"We've had decades in advancing research in the beneficial ecological role of wildfire.'

Inglesbee says it makes sense for fire managers to focus their efforts on the safety of communities and fire crews.

"On the same wildfire, managers can manage the fire for both community protection and eco-system restoration goals, simultaneously," Inglesbee says. "It's really a profound shift in thinking and in policy."

The shift brings the Forest Service more in line with the National Parks Service and back to what it had done until last year. Forest Service Chief Tidwell called the change "an evolution of the science and expertise" which has led to more emphasis on pre-fire planning and managed burns.

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