Southwest Seen As Most Vulnerable To Wildfire
April 26, 2012

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Fire season is upon us. Government leaders, climate forecasters and fire experts talked Thursday about the most vulnerable regions, and the Southwest topped the list.

Drought has expanded and intensified across the Southwest, most notably in Arizona. Scant precipitation, weak snow pack in the central Rockies and overstocked forests could make for another intense fire season.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters he sees on average 10,000 forest fires a year nationwide.

"The fact that we have forests that for many years were not adequately or fully managed properly and we now we have full stock of hazardous fuels particularly in the pine bark beetle infestation in the western part of the country creates a real dangerous circumstance and dry conditions exasperates it," Vilsack said.

Many are concerned about the Forest Service’s aging fleet of air tankers. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell says he’s confident, with the help of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, that they will have the resources to attack any major wildfires from the air. The agency waits for Congress to act on a request for better equipment.