Forest Service Gets More Aggressive on Small Fires

By PATRICK CONDON | August 9, 2012

The U.S. Forest Service is suspending a policy of letting small fires burn in isolated areas as several big fires in the western U.S. strain its resources.

Spokesman Joe Walsh says widespread drought also concerns the Forest Service. He says the agency wants to put fires out early so they don’t “get ahead of us.”

The Forest Service’s longstanding policy has been to let natural fires burn if they don’t threaten homes or buildings. Scientists say fire is part of the forest’s life cycle.

But that decision can go wrong. The agency was criticized last year over a northern Minnesota fire that was allowed to burn for several weeks before it suddenly flared out of control. It took $23 million and nearly 1,000 firefighters control the fire.

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