Last month, I wrote a story (no longer on the Daily Press site, for PDF version click here) on firefighting costs, and a report issued by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. I looked at the ways in which New Mexico has worked to improve conditions in the wildland urban interface — where forests meet homes and communities:
While the OIG report states one of the major problems is the wildland interface and slow progress in protecting homes from wildfire, [NM Forestry spokesman Dan] Ware counters that New Mexico is at the forefront of such efforts.
“We have done just a fantastic job as a whole on the community level,” he said. “There are many more fire-wise communities in New Mexico than other places in the country, and that’s because we have a very good inter-agency relationship with our state and federal land partners to private land owners to communities in general.”
“I think, in many ways, New Mexico leads the nation in our ability to get on the ground and get things done.”
New Mexico has been hard at work with these issues, and Grant County is the same way. For years, the New Mexico Forestry has used grant money to evaluate homeowners’ properties for defensible space. Locally, Gary Benavidez helped start the program several years ago, and, yesterday, he told me there are some 75 properties in the area waiting to be evaluated. Those residents can then clear brush and trees that might put their homes in danger.
I say all this because the New York Times has an article about the audit in today’s edition:
The report from the Agriculture Department’s inspector general said a major problem was simply the weight of accumulated assumptions: fire response in the West has long meant federal authorities riding to the rescue, with no questions asked and no cost too great to bear.
“Public expectations and uncertainties about protection responsibilities,” the report said, “compel the Forest Service to suppress fires aggressively and at great expense when private property is at risk, even when fires pose little threat to National Forest system land.”
While I humbly suggest you read my article as well, the NY Times piece is a great place to start learning about the latest in firefighting efforts across the West.