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Overworked And Exhausted Firefighters Battle Countless Fires Across US

LOS ANGELES – More than 1,500 firefighters and a fleet of helicopters and tankers continued to battle a 63,270-acre wildfire in the Sierra Nevada, with the blaze still only about 15 percent contained and dangerous dry lightning forecast.

The fire, which destroyed eight homes in a tiny mountain town started on July 22, of a cause that is unknown, and has burned through the Sequoia National Forest about 120 miles north of here. It has cost about $4.3 million so far and is just one of about 45 fires burning over nearly 500,000 acres in California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Montana.

Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said hot, dry weather, lightning without rain and a spate of new fires were taxing firefighting capacity throughout the region. Training began today for the Army’s Third Battalion, 16th Field Artillery, which is being called in from Fort Hood, Tex., to help firefighters in Idaho.

“This is the worst fire season we’ve had since 1988,” said Michelle Barrett, a spokeswoman at the center, noting the hot, dry conditions throughout the region.

Eight new fires were reported last week scattered throughout the region, and Ms. Barrett said overworked and exhausted firefighters would soon have to be rotated off duty for rest. She said officials would also have to be selective about where they put their stretched resources, trying to control fires of less than 10 acres as quickly as possible in what is known as “initial attack” to keep them from spreading, and, eventually, letting some isolated areas burn.

Take Steps Now to Avoid Damage From Wildfires

With wildfires raging across the western half of the United States, FEMA’s Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities wants to make all citizens aware of steps they can take
to reduce the risk of damage to their homes. While most of these fires are burning in national forests, seven families in Reno learned first hand what kind of damage can happen when a wildfire engulfs a home.

FEMA’s Project Impact suggests the following to help protect your home from wildfires:

  • Create a 25′ safety zone to separate the home from combustible plants and vegetation. Stone walls can act as heat shields and deflect flames. Swimming pools and patios can be safety zones.
  • Prune all branches around the residence to a height of 8 to 10 feet.Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying wood and moss.
  • Remove all dead limbs, needles, and debris from rain gutters.
  • Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.
  • Keep your chimney clean.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.
  • Build fires away from nearby trees and bushes.
  • Always have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely.
  • Never leave a fire — even a cigarette — burning unattended.

Since its inception in 1997, nearly 200 communities and more than 2,500 business partners have embraced Project Impact. Instead of waiting for disasters to occur, Project Impact communities take action to reduce potentially devastating disasters. You can’t prevent the weather, but you can prevent the damage.

For more information on Project Impact and wildfire prevention tips or to speak with national or local experts, please call Will Kinzel at 202-835-8877.

SOURCE U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency

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