The Forest Service will let some fires in remote wilderness areas burn this year, after spending $400 million over budget during last year's record fire season. The policy change, announced last month by Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell, aims to keep firefighters out of danger and save money, as well as reduce the possibility of cataclysmic fires later by eliminating dead trees and other possible fuel sources. It also brings the agency back in line with the Wildland Fire Policy, which it, along with all other federal land managers, adopted in 1995.
Timothy Ingalsbee, the executive director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology, praised the change in an interview with the Associated Press:
This new policy gives a lot more flexibility. It takes the blanket policy where every fire was treated the same and gives fire managers more options.... Chief Tidwell's move should restore the confidence of the fire management community that all the training and technology that's been invested to give fire crews the ability to work with fire to restore ecosystems will not be wasted by a return to yesteryear's all-out war on wildfires.
The Forest Service expects to lose $212 million from its 2013 budget due to sequestration. That includes $134 million for fighting fires.