WILDFIRES burned nearly six million acres this summer from Alaska to New Mexico — twice as much as in an average summer, according to recent news reports. Federal spending to combat wildfires could reach $1.5 billion this year.
Increasingly, people and homes are being threatened as the wilderness/urban interface narrows. Over the past couple of years, hundreds of homes were destroyed by wildfires in western states, such as Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico. The damage is growing steadily.
This year's wildfires across the West have rekindled the perennial debate between conservationists who stubbornly oppose cutting in the nation's forests and logging interests arguing that underbrush and deadwood increase the risk of fire. Up until this summer, many conservation group web sites contended that forest and brush fires were natural events and little or nothing should be done to prevent them.
In an effort to reduce wildfire risks, the Bush Administration has proposed a program to thin the national forests through selective cutting. President George W Bush said the changes are to address the failed policies of the past and to clear forests of a decades-long buildup of highly flammable materials.
Against this backdrop, the Fire-Rescue International 2002 Exhibition was held August 23-25 in Kansas City MO. Equipment for fighting wildfires and for rural fire service took center stage at many of the exhibitor's booths.