The U.S. secretaries of Homeland Security and Agriculture made a stop in Boise Tuesday afternoon. Janet Napolitano and Tom Vilsack thanked National Interagency Fire Center employees for their work in recent weeks, and asked homeowners in fire-prone areas to take precautions against wildfires.
Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, says she’s long had an appreciation for the work done in Boise. The Fire Center serves as the heart of U.S. firefighting operations. Napolitano called the facility’s coordination’s “remarkable”.
Both secretaries are asking residents to clear trees and brush near their homes in order to protect them from fire. Napolitano says that gives firefighters a much better chance of protecting property.
Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack provided some context for this year’s fire season. Though upwards of a thousand homes have burned so far this year, the government’s official tally shows there have been 7,000 fewer fires compared to this time a year ago. Vilsack says about 1.8 million acres have burned during the current fire season. A year ago that number was 4.5 million.
Vilsack, who oversees the US Forest Service, also reiterated his confidence in the capabilities of the Forest Service’s air tanker operations. Safety concerns over an aging fleet have shrunk the available large air tankers by nearly 80 percent since 2000. But Vilsack says he’s confident that an expanded helicopter fleet and smaller air tankers can nevertheless give firefighters the aerial support they need this summer.