BLM firefighting expert concerned about limited resources

Firefighting resources are a greater concern than funding following fires in the Hualapai Mountains last month that scorched 760 acres.

"Fire suppression funds come from the national budget, so there's really no effect on our operating budget," said Michael Trent, fire prevention officer with the Kingman office of the Bureau of Land Management.

"But if there should be another large fire our problem would be getting air support along with hand and hotshot crews.

The Pacific Northwest is extremely active with wildfires now and that region has sucked up most resources."

Lightning sparked fires July 12 in the Hualapai Mountains.

The Peak Complex Fire, which included the Peak and Lion Kill fires that burned together, destroyed 340 acres.

The Wild Cow fire charred another 420 acres.

About 200 firefighters battled the blazes at one time.

BLM personnel were aided by firefighters from the Kingman, Valle Vista, Pine Lake, Pinion Pine and Mohave Valley departments, Trent said.

"In particular, I want to commend the Pine Lake Fire Department for its level of professionalism and coordination," Trent said.

"Tony Beacom is its chief, and I can't say enough about how professional he was and the efforts he put forth during the fires."

Trent estimated the Peak Complex and Wild Cow fires cost $1.9 million to suppress.

Costs included aircraft, fire crews, support personnel and logistical support such as meals and lodging, Trent said.

"We spent the money up front instead of letting the fires grow larger and spending more down the road," Trent said.

"We took a very aggressive approach toward extinguishing them because of our concern of the proximity of homes in Pine Lakes and Pinion Pine."

Some areas of Mohave County have gotten a fair amount of precipitation in recent weeks, allowing for a "green up" of vegetation and lessening of the fire danger.

However, 90 percent of the Cerbat and Hualapai ranges remain dry, Trent said.

He said "1993-95 were big fire years in which wildfires burned thousands of acres (in Mohave County).

This year, we did a strong fire prevention campaign."

"Our office is pleased with the amount of participation in fire prevention and public willingness to cooperate in observing restrictions.

But there's nothing you can do about lightning."

The national office of the BLM in Washington, D.C., has been very supportive of the Kingman office this fire season, Trent said.

Requests for severity funds are made to the national office at 30-day intervals.

The last request for $290,000 covers July 15-Aug.

15, Trent said.

Funding is reviewed weekly.

But some money from the current allotment remains available to pay fire patrols for overtime, he said.