Magazine article Insight on the News

Accountability Begins at the Bottom in the U.S. Forest Service. (Waste & Abuse)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Accountability Begins at the Bottom in the U.S. Forest Service. (Waste & Abuse)

Article excerpt

The U.S. Forest Service has temporarily suspended or reassigned nine firefighters and firefighting commanders following an investigation of last summer's "Thirty-Mile Fire." The tire claimed the lives of four young firefighters--and easily might have taken many more--in Washington state's Okanogan National Forest. The blaze drew national attention after questions arose about whether wildlife and wilderness protections--most notably the Endangered Species Act--had hampered actions that might have prevented the blowout and saved the trapped tire crew.

As this page reported (Aug. 13, 2001), battling the Thirty-Mile Fire was complicated by the fact that it occurred in a designated wilderness area (technically called a special-study area) in which additional firefighting restrictions added an extra element of risk to already-dangerous work. Questions also were raised about whether a Forest Service policy of denying work to older firefighters because of an arcane government hiring technicality left tire crews short of experienced hands, thus contributing to the tragedy.

Nine individuals finally are being held accountable for the miscalculations of that day, a full 10 months after the fact. …

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