The Wrap on Wildfire. (Clippings)

American Forests, Autumn 2001 | Go to article overview

The Wrap on Wildfire. (Clippings)


As the 2001 wildfire season moved toward its close, firefighters were battling blazes, closely following weather predictions, and mourning the loss of four people in a Washington blaze (see Transitions).

"The threat of wildfire will continue through the end of September," says Dennis Pendleton, Forest Service director of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. "When you have a dry June like we had, there traditionally will be bad fire conditions in July and August. All the northwest block of the United States, from Washington to northern California, Colorado to Montana, still has a high potential for drought."

State and federal officials have been closely following weather predictions this year hoping last year's wildfire season would not he repeated. In 2000, close to 123,000 fires burned more than 8.4 million acres. The 10-year average for acres burned annually is about 3.8 million.

The fire season starts in Florida in the spring and from the first of the year to June 1 close to 3,000 fires burned more than 383,000 acres in Florida. "I've been involved in Florida agriculture practically all my life and I've never seen it this dry. We must do everything we can to prevent wildfire from starting," Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said in late May as he encouraged Floridians to help prevent human-caused wildfire.

A three-year drought was a major reason for the large number of spring fires. "It was a rough wildfire season early on," says Terrence McElroy, spokesman for the Florida Division of Forestry.

By the official start of summer, conditions had begun to improve in Florida but wildfires had become sporadic in the West and Alaska.

While officials monitored the fires and firefighters battled the blazes, AMERICAN FORESTS continued its Wildfire ReLeaf campaign, a large-scale initiative to reforest areas scorched in recent years.

Twenty-seven Penn State students helped plant some 7,300 native trees in California's Tahoe National Forest as part of Wildfire ReLeaf activities this spring. instead of traveling to Daytona Beach or some other college hot spot, they spent their spring break helping restore part of a 13,000-acre burn caused when a tree fell on a power line during high winds. …

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