Trump hiring freeze leaves Forest Service workers wondering about firefighting jobs

By Rob Chaney
Federal workers scrambled on Tuesday to interpret how President Donald Trump’s hiring freeze of civilian employees might affect seasonal firefighters and other part-time employees.Trump’s order, issued Monday, stated “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.”

“The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” the order continued. “In addition, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may grant exemptions from this freeze where those exemptions are otherwise necessary.”

National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Council President Melissa Baumann said the order left her in the dark about U.S. Forest Service staffing, especially with hiring fairs for permanent firefighting professionals starting next week.

Source: Trump hiring freeze leaves Forest Service workers wondering about firefighting jobs | Local | missoulian.com, 2017-01-24

Tom Vilsack: Invest in American jobs with wildfire budget fix

Another severe fire season has come and gone. This past year, 60,000 fires scorched nearly 5.5 million acres, destroying 5,000 homes and buildings. Most tragically, we suffered the loss of 12 federal, state and local wildland firefighters. The continuing national trend is clear — fire seasons are longer and wildfires burn bigger, hotter and faster.

As fires increase, so does the impact on the U.S. Forest Service’s budget. Responding to catastrophic fires demands a larger and larger percentage of the agency’s financial resources. The costs of firefighting were once relatively stable and could be predicted. But drought, changes in climate, longer and hotter fire seasons, and the complexity of protecting more than 44 million homes in and around forest edges are sending costs skyward.

As the new Congress convenes, Americans at large — especially those who have experienced the destruction and threats to safety, property and clean air and water firsthand — are again looking to Congress to finally approve the bipartisan relief they came short of enacting last session.

Source: Tom Vilsack: Invest in American jobs with wildfire budget fix – Knoxville News Sentinel, 2017-01-17

Forest Service Tries A Different Approach On Whether To Let Fires Burn

Scientists say more low-intensity wildfires are needed to clear out overgrown forests to help prevent bigger fires. Deciding where and when to let fires burn is tricky.

Dangerous wildfires made a lot of news across this country last year. But there are scientists who say we need more fires, low-intensity ones that clear out overgrown forests and help prevent the bigger fires. Deciding where and when to let fires burn is tricky, and so the U.S. Forest Service is working on a new approach.

Source: Forest Service Tries A Different Approach On Whether To Let Fires Burn : NPR, 2017-01-05

Cheaper hydrogels fight wildfire and clean wineries

Posted by Stanford

A new process makes hydrogels out of cheaper materials. Tests show they can be useful for more applications, including wine-making and firefighting.

Hydrogels are gelatinous amalgams of cross-linked polymers that can absorb and hold large quantities of water. They’re useful in absorbent disposable diapers, as well as soft contact lenses.

Were it not for factors including high manufacturing costs, hydrogels could find even broader commercial application. The synthetic polymers now used for their production are often expensive or difficult to make on an industrial scale, and frequently present environmental and safety concerns. But those limitations may soon vanish.

A team of researchers has created new hydrogels that incorporate two abundant and inexpensive basic ingredients: a cellulose polymer derived from natural sources such as wood chips and agricultural waste; and colloidal silica, a liquid suspension of nanoscale particles derived from sand.

Source: Cheaper hydrogels fight wildfire and clean wineries – Futurity

Let It Burn: The Forest Service Wants to Stop Putting Out Some Fires

Fires aren’t all bad. Some fires help forests become healthier, but scientists say they’re sorely lacking in California.

Sierra Nevada forests are adapted to low-intensity fires that clear the underbrush and prevent trees from getting too dense. After a century of fire suppression, many forests are overgrown, which can make catastrophic fires worse.

So forest managers are piloting a new policy designed to shift a century-old mentality about fire in the West.

The idea is to let naturally-caused fires burn when they aren’t a threat to homes or people. But actually making those decisions on the ground isn’t easy in a crowded state like California.

Source: Let It Burn: The Forest Service Wants to Stop Putting Out Some Fires | KQED Science

Climate Change Blamed for Half of Increased Forest Fire Danger

Forest fires are burning longer and stronger across the western United States, lighting up the landscape with alarming frequency. Residents are forced to flee, homes are incinerated, wildlife habitats are destroyed, lives are lost. Last year, the Forest Service spent more than half its annual budget fighting fires.

Scientists have long theorized that climate change has contributed to the longer fire seasons, the growing number and destructiveness of fires and the increasing area of land consumed, though some experts suggest that the current fire phenomenon is not just a result of a changing climate, but also fire-suppressing policies practiced by the government for the last century or more.

In a new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from the University of Idaho and Columbia University have calculated how much of the increased scope and intensity of Western wildfires can be attributed to human-caused climate change and its effects. They state that, since 1979, climate change is responsible for more than half of the dryness of Western forests and the increased length of the fire season. Since 1984, those factors have enlarged the cumulative forest fire area by 16,000 square miles, about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined, they found.

Source: Climate Change Blamed for Half of Increased Forest Fire Danger

Bigger Fort McMurrays may lie ahead, research warns

The Fort McMurray disaster may be just a taste of what’s ahead – as the warming climate looks to increase large forest fires in Canada by 50% by the end of the century.

A new report from Natural Resources Canada has revealed that climate change will have a significant impact on forest fires in the coming years.

While the Fort McMurray wildfire that covered 590,000 hectares is expected to become the largest insurance loss in Canadian history, the increasing size of fires may mean that the record will be quickly outstripped.

Source: Bigger Fort McMurrays may lie ahead, research warns

Million-acre forest plan designed to make Black Hills more resilient to fire, bugs

DEADWOOD — In roughly two decades, the Black Hills mountain pine beetle infestation has decimated approximately 215,000 acres of pine trees in the Black Hills, leaving drastically changed woodlands in its wake.

Designed to reduce fire hazards and promote biodiversity on more than one million acres of public land in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming, the framework for the major new management plan, is set forth in a document titled the “Black Hills Resilient Landscapes Project.”

Source: Million-acre forest plan designed to make Black Hills more resilient to fire, bugs – Black Hills Pioneer: Local News

Getting Ahead of the Wildfire Problem: Quantifying and Mapping Management Challenges and Opportunities

Wildfire is a global phenomenon that plays a vital role in regulating and maintaining many natural and human-influenced ecosystems but that also poses considerable risks to human populations and infrastructure. Fire managers are charged with balancing the short-term protection of human assets sensitive to fire exposure against the potential long-term benefits that wildfires can provide to natural systems and wildlife populations. The compressed decision timeframes imposed on fire managers during an incident are often insufficient to fully assess a range of fire management options and their respective implications for public and fire responder safety, attainment of land and resource objectives, and future trajectories of hazard and risk. This paper reviews the role of GIS-based assessment and planning to support operational wildfire management decisions, with a focus on recent and emerging research that pre-identifies anthropogenic and biophysical landscape features that can be leveraged to increase the safety and effectiveness of wildfire management operations. We use a case study from the United States to illustrate the development and application of tools that draw from research generated by the global fire management community.

Source: Geosciences | Free Full-Text | Getting Ahead of the Wildfire Problem: Quantifying and Mapping Management Challenges and Opportunities | HTML

Team studies fires this year in ’88 Yellowstone burn areas

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Nearly three decades ago, huge wildfires burned about a third of Yellowstone National Park. The park has seen wildfires every year since, but the forests of new trees that grew in the scars of those 1988 fires have helped curb their size and intensity — until now.

Source: Team studies fires this year in ’88 Yellowstone burn areas