USFS panel's finding of no negligence in Montana fire disappoints

Posted: Nov 24, 2010

Written by

Helena Independent Record

It’s almost counterintuitive to think of a wildfire when it’s minus 20 degrees outside with the wind chill and there are eight to 10 inches of puffy snow on the ground. But that’s just what the recent announcement by the Helena National Forest regarding the cause and aftermath of the Davis fire has us doing. And we’re shaking our heads in disgust because of it.

That a five-member panel made up of forest officials from across the West found no blame in a prescribed burn erupting into the 2,000-acre Davis fire, which cost nearly $3 million in taxpayer money to extinguish, is not only disappointing, it’s unfathomable. It’s the equivalent of a bureaucratic whitewash.

The five members — three U.S. Forest Service officials from Utah, Idaho and Missoula, plus a representative of the Bureau of Land Management and one from the state Department of Natural Resources
and Conservation — revealed multiple factors that contributed to the wildfire, but pointed to no single event or point of blame. Inadequate knowledge about the types of trees and corresponding fuel types in the area, the change in fire conditions between February, when the plan was reviewed, and August, when the plan was
implemented, and the compressed time frame in which to do the project all contributed to the prescribed fire running out of control, the report notes.


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