Wildland fires are increasingly threatening communities and ecosystems. In recent years, they have become more intense due to excess vegetation that has accumulated, partly as a result of past suppression efforts. The cost to suppress these fires is increasing and, as more people move into fire-prone areas near wildlands, the number of homes at risk is growing. During these wildland fires, effective communications among the public safety agencies responding from various areas is critical, but can be hampered by incompatible radio equipment. This testimony discusses (1) progress made and future challenges to managing wildland fire, (2) measures to help protect structures, and (3) the role of technology in improving responder communications during fires. It is based on two GAO reports: Wildland Fire Management: Important Progress Has Been Made, but Challenges Remain to Completing a Cohesive Strategy (GAO-05-147, Jan. 14, 2005) and Technology Assessment: Protecting Structures and Improving Communications during Wildland Fires (GAO-05-380, Apr. 26, 2005).
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