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Three years of drought and hot temperatures throughout Nevada and the Western United States has led to more wildfires, and government agencies have been turning to private-sector companies to help battle fires on federal lands.
Debbie Miley, executive director of the National Wildfire Suppression Association, told KNPR that over the past decade about 40 percent of fire personnel and support crews have come from private companies. Miley didn’t expect full-privatization of the wildfire business to happen, but said they’ve played crucial role since the first contract was since in 1986.
“We have 176, 20-person crews that fight fires across the country,” Miley said. “Close to 50 percent of the resources in the Pacific Northwest come from our members.”
Not everyone is convinced that private companies are a good thing. They argue that private firefighting companies have are one reason costs have escalated nationally. This year alone, the federal government will spent more than $3 billion to fight wildfires nationwide.
Casey Judd, manager of the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association, said private firms have increased because they know they can make money from the federal government. Judd said there are good contractors and bad contractors, but the problems include a lack of oversight and no incentive to be cost effective.
“Fighting fires is getting very expensive,” Judd said.
Casey Judd, manager of the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
Debbie Miley, executive director of the National Wildfire Suppression Association