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Meeting the Challenge of Wildfire

A Worthwhile Investment

bulldozerWhile human safety is priority one, fire fighting also protects Tennessee’s 14 million acres of forestland.

Forests and the forest products industry accounts for $21.7 billion or seven percent of Tennessee’s economy, employing more than 184,000 workers, 5.2 percent of the workforce. Outdoor sports like hunting and fishing, which depend upon healthy forests, contribute an additional $2.5 billion in the state’s economy, and the scenic beauty of our forests supports the state’s $10.3 billion tourism industry. Forest fires are also a threat to homes and other property. Each year over a dozen Tennessee homes are lost to wildfire, and even more outbuildings and equipment are lost.

An All New Fleet of Tractor-plows

Before acquiring its all new fleet of 112 tractor-plows, nearly a third of the Division of Forestry's firefighting bulldozers had passed retirement age and another third were less than six years away.

bulldozerGovernor Bredesen’s FY ’05 budget issued $20 million in seven-year notes to completely replace the ageing fleet, a first for the Southeast and possibly the nation.

These bulldozers, fitted with plows and safety cages, are critical tools in containing wildfires on the type of terrain found in our state. Smaller than most commercial bulldozers, tractor-plows are easier to transport on rural roads and to operate in tight conditions and varying terrain.

Tractor-plows cut a barrier around a fire. The front blade clears timber and debris while the back plow cuts a fireline, a shallow ditch clear of leaves, needles and other forest fuels. Fire set along the inside of the fireline burns toward the oncoming wildfire resulting in a wide firebreak--in effect “fighting fire with fire.”

New Physical Fitness Standards

firemanWildland firefighting is very physically and mentally demanding. In areas where heavy equipment cannot be used, firelines are built by firefighters using hand tools. To improve employee health and safety, the Division of Forestry adopted new physical standards for forestry firefighters on August 1, 2004. All newly hired forestry firefighters must demonstrate physical conditioning by completing a 2-mile walk within 30 minutes while wearing a 25-pound pack. The test is based on standards for USDA Forest Service firefighters. Though not a condition of employment, forestry firefighters employed prior August 1, are required to participate in the test as part of a physical assessment.

Firewise Program

house burningAcross the state many Tennesseans are moving away from crowded urban areas to rural homes. In many instances these homes are built in the wildland environment. This situation is referred to as the "Wildland-Urban Interface" (WUI). Wildfires that occur in the WUI also threaten and sometimes destroy homes and other improvements. The Division of Forestry is actively working with communities and local fire departments to educate and inform homeowners about how they can mitigate this risk. For more information about the department’s “Firewise” program, contact the Division of Forestry at (615) 837-5520 or visit online at www.tennessee.gov/agriculture/forestry.

 

Meeting the Challenge
Wildland Fire Management Strategies
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Wildland Fire Use As a Tool
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Working Together to Reduce Fuels
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Wildland Fire Fuel Management
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Prescribed Fires Recycle
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Wildlife Fire Rehabilitation
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Wildland Fire Awareness
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