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August 8, 2000

Today, President Clinton, joined by Agriculture Secretary Glickman, Interior Secretary Babbitt, and Army Secretary Caldera, will travel to McCall, Idaho to survey areas ravaged by wildfires and commend firefighters on their tireless efforts. The President will issue an Executive Memorandum directing the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to make recommendations on ways to rehabilitate burned lands, reduce fire risk to other rural communities, and ensure adequate firefighting resources in the future. With more fires anticipated in coming weeks, the President also will announce the release of $150 million in emergency funds to the Department of Agriculture to continue firefighting and restoration efforts.

ONE OF THE WORST FIRE SEASONS IN DECADES. A prolonged drought followed by record-high temperatures, dry lightning, and low humidity have combined to create ideal conditions for forest fires in the western United States. So far this year, 63,623 wildland fires have burned more than 4 million acres - almost twice the 10-year average. Currently, 25,000 firefighters from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico - including over 2,000 service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Air and Army Guard, and Air Force Reserve - are working to contain 36 large fires in Arizona, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, California and Wyoming. As many as 300 new fires are cropping up daily, with the cost of fire suppression averaging between $10 million and $15 million a day.

VISITING FIREFIGHTERS AND SURVEYING DAMAGE. One of the largest fires currently burning is the Burgdorf Junction Fire, about 23 miles north of McCall in the Payette National Forest. Reported on July 14, the fire was caused by a lightning storm and fueled by timber, brush, and grass parched by hot, dry weather. The fire, which has so far burned 23,149 acres, is now 40% contained. Joined by Secretaries Glickman, Babbitt, and Caldera, President Clinton will visit the Burgdorf Junction Incident Command Post to survey firefighting efforts and lend support and encouragement to firefighters, who have been battling the blaze for nearly three weeks. In addition to firefighters from several state and federal agencies, there are 500 Army troops from the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery of Fort Hood, Texas, battling the Burgdorf Junction fire.

ENHANCING FIRE PREVENTION AND RESPONSE. The President will issue an Executive Memorandum directing the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to report back in 30 days with recommendations on ways to:

EMERGENCY FUNDS FOR FIREFIGHTING AND RESTORATION EFFORTS. As part of ongoing efforts to combat wildfires and protect communities, the President will release $150 million in emergency funds requested by the Department of Agriculture to continue fighting wildfires and restoring damaged lands nationwide. The funds will be drawn from an emergency account established by Congress to help meet urgent firefighting needs. Suppression operations funding includes firefighting salaries and expenses, costs associated with national mobilization, and large aircraft and helicopter operations. Rehabilitation activities include reducing erosion and loss of soil productivity, deterioration of water quality, changes to ecosystems, and damage to critical cultural and natural resources.

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