For decades, the US Forest Service let small fires in remote areas burn naturally – in recognition that fire was part of the natural landscape, and that by letting some fires burn, future large fires could be prevented.
But last year, every fire was battled unless granted special status. That has been recognized as part of the reason why the Forest Service spent more than one billion dollars fighting fires in 2012.
Now the agency is taking the “fight all fires” directive off the books. Timothy Inglesbee with Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology says it means flexibility in making decisions.
The forest official who required that all fires be suppressed in 2012 had a goal of keeping all fires small, and listed concerns about drought as one reason for the change in approach.
Arizona had 700 forest fires in 2012.