A Talk on the Wild Side.
Wildfires and hurricanes. Photos courtesy NOAA and NASA
Across the country, as our nation copes with devastating wildfires in the West and multiple hurricanes in the Southeast and Gulf Coast, hundreds of Fish and Wildlife Service employees are deploying to crisis spots to assist with preparation, response and recovery efforts. These seasoned first responders are working as part of a much larger coordinated government effort.
“Experience shows that when conditions are at their worst, public employees are at their best, and that’s certainly true right now. I couldn’t be prouder of the more than 440 Fish and Wildlife Service professionals who are working around the clock both in their own communities and far from home to help people and wildlife cope with these disasters,” said Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan.
While Responding to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma...
Over the past 24 hours, as Hurricane Irma began to impact Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Service employees in the Southeast Region were deploying. Although Irma largely skirted Puerto Rico, Culebra National Wildlife Refuge suffered heavy damage. More impacts are expected to refuges and field stations in the Florida Keys, mainland Florida and farther up the Atlantic and Gulf coasts as the storm makes landfall on the Continental United States this weekend.
We’re in the process of organizing Service assets into incident response teams who will coordinate with other agencies to deploy available vehicles, aircraft and watercraft for search and rescue operations. Other teams will mobilize heavy equipment to help with cleanup efforts, provide communications, logistics and transport support, and perform other essential functions in support of the overall government response.
We’ll be providing updates on this hurricane response at: https://www.fws.gov/hurricane/irma/. Check back over the next few days to learn about what’s happening on the ground, and what we’re doing to respond.
The Service operates around 100 wildlife refuges, hatcheries, field offices and other stations located in Hurricane Irma’s estimated track. Staff at each facility are working to secure facilities and protect vehicles and other assets to minimize potential damage from this powerful hurricane. Of these, 44 stations have been closed as of today.
They join dozens of Service personnel deployed on the ground last week in the Texas Gulf Coast area as part of Hurricane Harvey response efforts. These include more than 68 Law Enforcement Special Agents and Refuge Law Enforcement officers detailed to help with rescue and emergency response efforts in the wake of widespread flooding from Harvey.
As Harvey recovery efforts move into the next stage, we anticipate deploying additional employees trained to aid with oil and hazardous materials response, public works and engineering, and agricultural and natural resources response to help the people of the Gulf Coast begin rebuilding their communities and to address impacts to our Gulf Coast refuges and other facilities, many of which sustained damage from Harvey.
Friday, 25 of these officers were demobilized in Houston and are on their way to Georgia to deploy again as part of our Irma response efforts.
We're Battling Wildfires in the West
In the West, dozens of fires continue to burn out of control in Montana, Oregon and other parts of the region suffering from severe drought over the summer. In total, more than 200 Service employees are deployed in response to these fires, which have already burned more than 8 million acres and destroyed over 500 homes and many other structures. Although coordinated federal and state firefighting efforts have contained four major fires, another 48 fires continue to burn out of control. And just in the past few days, 172 separate new wildfires have been reported to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise – including eight significant blazes.
The volume and intensity of these fires are straining every agency’s capacity, and we anticipate continuing to deploy Service employees for wildfire response until snow comes this fall to the higher elevations where the fires are burning.
You can learn more about western wildlfires and the coordinated federal and state response from the National Interagency Fire Center Website at https://www.nifc.gov/
We’re proud to be doing our part to help Americans cope with these disasters. And we’ll be there as long as we’re needed.
“Fish and Wildlife Service employees are out there tirelessly helping to lead rescue efforts and deliver needed resources – not just because it’s their job, but because many have deep roots in affected communities, sharing schools, churches, friendships and more,” Sheehan said.