Little Bear fire victim: This is not a natural disaster
Posted at: 07/02/2012 5:59 PM
| Updated at: 07/03/2012 8:31 AM
By: Stuart Dyson, Eyewitness News 4
This year's forest fires, including the biggest in recorded New Mexico history, have a lot of people who have lost homes and other property steaming mad at the U.S. Forest Service.
On Monday, the man who agency manages public lands and helps determine forest policies, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, talked with Eyewitness News 4 about their concerns.
Though the U.S. Forest Service is under the Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Interior, Salazar directly addressed the concerns raised about forest and fire policy.
Hundreds of victims of the Little Bear fire in southeast New Mexico crowded into a fire-ravaged park in Ruidoso Saturday with a bitter message for the Forest Service.
"This is not a natural disaster," said one man. "It's a disaster that was allowed to happen."
He spoke for many in the crowd who believe that the Forest Service's own management policies, especially when it comes to lightning-caused fires like the Little Bear, make the fires worse and make people and property a lower priority than trees.
Salazar said that is not so.
"There are now about 13,000 firefighters out there battling fires in 100 degree-plus weather, putting themselves in danger, trying to make sure we're doing anything we can to protect people and protect their property homes, and we'll continue to do that," Salazar said.
Salazar has a bitter message of his own for the people here in the Rio Grande Basin and the
Colorado River Basin - when it comes to wildfire, get used to it.
"All of our models looking out 15 to 20 years are telling us that we're gonna continue to see a decline in precipitation in these areas," Salazar said. "That's not anything we can do anything about. We all want it to snow and rain. I wish it was raining now."
In fact there are some thunderstorms in New Mexico, but it is not enough to break the long-term trend of drought.