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Congressman LaMalfa Says U.S. Forest Service Is Changing Strategy And Will Prioritize Putting All Fires Out Instead Of Letting Some Burn

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Fighting fires faster and more aggressively -- it's a major policy change for the U.S. Forest Service, after bipartisan outrage over major fires that were left burn then got out of hand.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa said he helped negotiate the promise with the incoming head of the U.S. Forest Service, Chief Randy Moore.

"With the fire history that we have here, we can't be waiting because it just doesn't take too much," he said.

Congressman LaMalfa said the July Tamarack fire in Alpine County is a good example. At first, U.S. forest service officials just monitored it and let it burn.

Things were ok until the fire grew to tens of thousands of acres and threatened homes.

"When you have a chance to fight a fire, spot and get after it, you've got to do it up front," LaMalfa said.

In the past, the U.S. Forest Service would let fire burn to help thin out overgrown vegetation, but LaMalfa said drought conditions are too dangerous for that now.

"We have to take into account that...they are stressed with resources, with numbers of firefighters or where the equipment is so they've had a practice of monitoring fire," he said.

Calfire Battalion Chief Jon Heggie said his agency has always worked to put out fires as soon as they start.

"Our mission is to extinguish that fire at 10 acres or less. We do that 95 percent of the time," he said.

Heggie said that approach saves lives and property.

"That protects Californians from those fires getting large and devastating and people having to evacuate out of their homes," he said.

Heggie said fires have gotten much bigger and more destructive in just the last few years. That's why \local representatives say it's time for the forest service to change.

"We want to help them have the tools and were going to hold them to account to get it done too," LaMalfa said.

He says a lot of his discussion with the forest service involved more work on clearing dead vegetation and taking care of projects that are long overdue.
He wants the forest service to contract with local companies to do that.

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