Biscuit Fire: Analysis of Fire Response, Resource Availability, and Personnel Certification Standards

GAO-04-426 Published: Apr 12, 2004. Publicly Released: May 12, 2004.
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In 2002, the United States experienced one of the worst wildland fire seasons in the past 50 years--almost 7 million acres burned. These fires included the largest and costliest fire in Oregon in the past century--the Biscuit Fire. Following a lightning storm, five fires were discovered in the Siskiyou National Forest over a 3- day period beginning July 13. These fires eventually burned together to form the Biscuit Fire, which burned nearly 500,000 acres in southern Oregon and Northern California and cost over $150 million to extinguish. GAO evaluated (1) whether policies and procedures were in place for acquiring needed firefighting resources during the initial days of the Biscuit Fire, and the extent to which these policies and procedures were followed when the fire was first identified; (2) what resource management issues, if any, affected the ability of personnel to fight the fire; and (3) what differences, if any, existed in key certification standards for personnel among federal and state agencies and whether these differences affected efforts to respond to the fire. In commenting on a draft of this report, the Forest Service stated that the report appears to be accurate and the agency generally agrees with its contents. The Department of the Interior did not provide comments.

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