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Northeast Regional Strategy Committee Newsletter

January 2022

The Northeast Regional Strategy Committee (NE RSC) is established to coordinate and support the national Wildland Fire Leadership Council’s mission and priorities across the 20 Northeast and Midwest states to facilitate understanding of wildland fire policies and frameworks such as the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. The NE RSC provides strategic connections, fosters collaboration, and facilitates addressing regional priorities to support all wildland fire partners and their activities across the Northeast.

Membership includes, but is not limited to, representatives from federal, state, Tribal, local, non-governmental organizations, private industry and other agencies, organizations and individuals as approved by the NE RSC.  
Table of Contents  

Greenwood Fire: How residents and Mother Nature are recovering from devastation

By Randy Meier, Published December 6, 2021

Forests are recovering after the Greenwood fire.

(FOX 9) - The Greenwood fire took its name from the nearby lake where lightning struck on Aug. 15, igniting a wildfire that burned for weeks.

Fueled by drought and wind, its persistence dominated headlines for much of late summer and early fall in Minnesota.

After the Fire: The damage left behind by the Greenwood fire in northern Minnesota

A lightning strike on August 15 sparked a fire in the Superior National Forest that burned for weeks. Now residents are working to rebuild and restore what has been lost.

When the last flames were finally put out, the northern Minnesota fire had consumed nearly 27,000 acres, countless firefighting resources, and at its worst, the lives that some had built around nearby McDougal Lake. Homes burned to the ground, destroying countless possessions. For a few, it was the closest call they ever want to live through.

"We had a boardwalk and deck right off the lake area… we’re starting to rebuild the deck now, and I’ll connect the boardwalk as soon as I get that completed," said Jeff Solomon, who lost several items in the fire.

The end of his dock went up in flames, and he lost several boats, as well. "I had all of our watercraft out there. Two handmade wood canoes, kayak, and a paddleboard… and those are just ashes now," Solomon said.

The couple believes it a small price to pay considering how close the fire actually got to their home and how devastating it was for others.

In California, Tribal Members and More Protected from Liability for Cultural, Controlled Burns


A 2017 Controlled Burn. (Photo Courtesy Cal Fire)


California’s more than half a million Native people are now backed by a law that allows them more protection to do what they’ve always done: fight fire with fire.

Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have managed their forests in hot, dry areas— such as much of present day California— by setting off controlled burns, or intentional fires, that remove organic materials that can be hazardous fuel sources from a forest floor. 

On Jan. 1, two new state laws took effect that limit the liability for private citizens and tribal members setting controlled burns from having to pay for damages, should the controlled fire spread into a wildfire.

While the laws don't necessarily change the behavior of many state residents, they do minimize their potential financial risk.

For over 20 years, Plains Miwok fire expert and professor at California State University–Chico, Don Hankins, has been setting controlled fires in and around his neighborhood and on university lands to mitigate wildfire risk. 

“Every time I would burn before this (law) came into existence, I always faced the risk of losing my own personal assets,” Hankins told Native News Online. “If, for instance, there was a log that caught… and that fire… then establishes a wildfire, I would be still responsible for starting that fire and, prior to this law, I would have to pay the costs: the suppression costs, the loss of structures.”

Now, the state is allowing private citizens to both reduce wildfire risk while also revitalizing thousands of years of traditions around fire.

‘Good fire’

US federal forest policy up until the 1970s considered fires mostly bad. In a 1918 letter from a California District Ranger to his supervisor at the U.S. National Parks, the ranger wrote “The Forest Service…have no more important duty to perform than keeping the fires down to a minimum.”

The ranger noted “the renegades white and Indians” caused “lots of damage” from their fire practices, and recommended they be shot. “Every time you catch one sneaking around in the brush like a coyote, take a shot at him,” he wrote.

Now, new legislation marks a sea change back towards traditional knowledge.

With record-breaking fire seasons as the new norm, the state of California in 2020 partnered with federal agencies to commit to burn a million acres of forest land annually by 2025. 

That action plan—aimed at improving the health and resilience of the state's forested landscapes— is ultimately what led state sanctioned encouragement of controlled fires, or so-called good fire.

Many states in the American southeast have long employed controlled burns and lenient liability laws to keep wildfires in check. From 1998 to 2018, 70% of all prescribed fire was in the Southeast, according to a Department of Forest study. California’s controlled burn action plan is modeled after Florida, which burns 2.1 million acres a year between landowners and private agencies.

Wildland Fire Open Data

Launched in April 2020, the National Interagency Fire Center’s wildland fire open data site makes information on wildfire activity across the U.S. publicly available. During its first year, the most popular dataset—providing information on wildfire perimeters—was accessed 3 billion times. And demand for this information continues to grow. During the record-setting 2021 wildfire season, the perimeter dataset was accessed 1.2 billion times in July and August alone.

Survey assesses fire departments’ readiness for handling wildland fires

Fifth Needs Assessment shows some progress but continuing gaps in fire department resources

This Fifth Fire Service Needs Assessment Survey was conducted by NFPA beginning in 2020 and concluding in 2021. It follows earlier surveys completed in 2001, 2005, 2010, and 2015. A total of 2,969 fire departments responded to the survey, with approximately 75 percent responding online and 25 percent filling out the paper version. Overall, the response rate was 11 percent, ranging from a 7 percent response from fire departments protecting populations of less than 2,500 to a 39 percent response from fire departments protecting populations of 500,000 or more. The previous Needs Assessment report included additional state-level reporting. NFPA will be working in the coming months to produce these types of reports for selected states.

This report shows that while some fire service needs have been declining, many have remained constant or increased. Fire service needs exist for departments of all sizes and in every area, including staffing, training and certification, facilities, apparatus, personal protective equipment (PPE); and health and wellness. In general, the smaller the community protected, the greater the need. 

Interactive survey results can be found here:

Meetings and Trainings

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The Northeast Regional Strategy Committee (NE RSC) delivers articles and stories each month that demonstrate the collaborative efforts of agencies, organizations and communities supporting and promoting the three goals of the Cohesive Strategy: Restoring Resilient Landscapes, Creating Fire Adapted Communities and Responding to Wildfire. 
This news update is our primary communication tool with our partners and the public. Looking for more Northeast Region Cohesive Strategy information or past published news update issues? Go to:
GOT NEWS? Does your agency, organization or community have a wildland fire management project or event you'd like to see featured in the NE RSC News Update? Tell us about it! Submissions should be sent by the end of each month to appear in the next monthly issue. Just email to Larry Mastic.
Key Contacts:
Dave Celino

Chief Fire Warden
Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation

Larry Mastic
Coordinator, Northeast Region
Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy

Important Links
Retrieving Northeast (NE) and National Cohesive Strategy (CS) documents and reports
All things CS plus past NE Regional Strategy Committee news updates

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