In response to massive wildfires in the Waldo Canyon in Colorado and in the foothills of Pocatello, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today visited the National Interagency Fire Center east of the Boise airport after assessing the damage in both states.
"The people who have invested their lives and careers—this is tough, hot, hard work at times—we want to come together and really say thank you to them," said Napolitano of fire fighters battling those blazes.
Together, those blazes destroyed more than 700 structures along Colorado's Front Range. Idaho wildfires have not been as large, though have already caused damage in excess of $10 million.
"We visited a site today," said Vilsack, "where even though we lost a number of homes, 81 percent of the homes at risk were saved."
Vilsack pointed to weather and environmental conditions as contributors to the fierce beginning to the fire season.
"The weather, beetle kills, which has increased fuel loads, add to that fierce winds and humiditiy—it is a formula for very serious and intense fires," he said.
Both Napolitano and Vilsack cautioned homeowners living near forests and in dry areas to prepare their homes by creating fire lines, and carrying insurance. Vilsack also addressed the loss of firefighters in the crash of a C-130 firefighting tanker in the Black Hills of South Dakota, killing its four-member crew.
"The C-130s are flying again," said Vilsack after acknowledging the families' loss. "They took a precautionary day to assess safety, but they're back in the air. We have 24 available tankers, with 12 working in Colorado."
Sixty-six homes and 29 outbuildings were destroyed in Pocatello's Charlotte Fire, with more than 1,600 acres torched in other areas of the state.