Despite wildfires burning hundreds of homes in the last few weeks, the Cabinet member who oversees the U.S. Forest Service said [yesterday] Tuesday there have been fewer fires this year compared to this time last year. Tom Vilsack made the comments during a stop in Idaho. From Boise, Scott Graf has more.
Vilsack and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. They made the trip to Idaho after viewing burned areas in Colorado.
Vilsack told reporters that while this has been a particularly destructive start to the wildfire season in terms of property loss, there have actually been 7,000 fewer fires this year, compared to last. The number of acres burned so far this year is about 1.8 million. That’s less than half the figure from a year ago.
Vilsack also reiterated his confidence in the aircraft available to fight fires this summer. The number of large air tankers has declined by about 80 percent since 2000, over safety concerns for an aging fleet.
But Vilsack says more helicopters and available smaller planes should give firefighters the aerial support they need.
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