NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

National Fire Plan Largely Ineffective So Far

August 22, 2002

The so-called National Fire Plan -- aimed at averting forest fires -- was launched in 2000. But despite more than $6 billion in costs so far, implementation has been slow and the plan is off its mark. Those are the conclusions of a review of the plan conducted by USA Today.

The original aim had been to thin forests of overgrown trees and brush in areas containing homes -- and allow fires to burn in remote, unpopulated areas.

But so far:

  • Less than 40 percent of woodlands thinned have been in areas where homes meet the woods -- with much of the activity taking place in remote areas.
  • Only 82 of more than 59,000 fires have been left to burn this year.
  • Much of the work has been concentrated in the South -- rather than the West, which is much more prone to fire danger.
  • Less than 1 percent of money spent has been used to educate homeowners about steps they can take to reduce fire risks.

This year, nearly six million acres have burned to date -- more than twice the 10-year average for this point in the year. The fire-fighting costs could reach $2 billion.

About 34 million Americans live or near areas that are at high risk for fires.

Source: Tom Kenworthy, "U.S. Fire Policy Isn't Cutting It," USA Today, August 22, 2002.


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