TDA Forestry Division Deploys New Tool in Wildfire Protection

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 | 6:00pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry today unveiled a new tool in fighting wildland fires in Tennessee. Fifty-one “pumper units” are being deployed in 49 counties across the state to improve fire protection in areas where development interfaces with the landscape.

 

The new equipment  was funded through an appropriation of more than $500,000 in the current year’s state budget as proposed by Governor Phil Bredesen and supported by the Tennessee General Assembly.

“As we continue to experience growth in many of our outlying areas, being able to respond quickly and with better equipment will be crucial to our fire suppression efforts in the future,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens. “This new equipment will help us meet that challenge, and we’re proud that Governor Bredesen and members of the General Assembly recognize the importance of this public safety service.”

The pumper unit consists of a 150 gallon tank with a high pressure pump mounted in the bed of a pickup truck capable of delivering a higher volume of water or foam and drawing water from a variety of sources.

“Homes built in heavily wooded areas can present a real challenge for firefighters who must work in close quarters to build fire breaks between structures and an advancing fire,” said State Forester Steve Scott. “These units will allow us to respond more effectively to debris fires, roadside grass fires and fires threatening structures – often before they become larger fires requiring more equipment and expensive resources.”

The Division of Forestry is equipped to work in wildland-urban interface zones along with volunteer and local fire department personnel in protecting structures from wildfire. State forestry officials say the cooperation between the Division of Forestry and local fire departments is crucial to providing an effective wildland fire suppression program. The Division of Forestry provides technical assistance and $250,000 annually to volunteer fire departments through federally funded grant programs.

The Division of Forestry also provides financial and technical assistance to community groups to address local issues associated with wildland-urban interface fires. Workshops are conducted to educate homeowners and community leaders on how to identify high fire risk areas and how to protect property from wildfire. Grant funds are provided to local communities to reduce risk of structural loss or injuries from wildfires through risk assessments and hazardous fuel reduction projects.

Last year, the Division of Forestry deployed 112 “fireplow” units across the state to replace its aging fleet of heavy dozers and transport trucks. The upgrade was funded through a $20 million bond issue proposed by Governor Bredesen and supported by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Since January 1, Tennessee has had nearly 1,100 wildfires that have burned more than 16,700 acres. Nearly 40 percent of those fires were due to arson. Tennessee averages about 2,500 wildfires annually that burn around 25,000 acres, resulting in the loss of valuable forest resources and structures. Official fire season in Tennessee is from October 15 through May 15. During that time citizens not covered by local fire restrictions are required to obtain a permit from the Division of Forestry before conducting any type of open, outdoor burn.

Since August 2005, the TDA Division of Forestry has responded to emergencies with more than 140 firefighters and specialists, heavy equipment and other resources in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma for hurricane relief and wildfire suppression efforts.

More information about wildfire danger and protection can be found on the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Web site at www.tennessee.gov/agriculture, then click on Fire Danger News.

Agriculture