US representative for New Mexico presses Forest Service chief to 'honor his commitment' to use infrared drones for all prescribed burns in state; two USFS prescribed burns started 2022 Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire that destroyed 341,471 acres

Sample article from our Government & Public Policy

WASHINGTON , October 20, 2023 (press release) –

Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM)

Yesterday, Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández , sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore urging him to honor his commitment to use infrared drones for all prescribed burns in New Mexico.  Rep. Leger Fernández previously secured a commitment from Chief Moore to use infrared drones during prescribed fires after a holdover pile burn unknowingly smoldered for months and helped start the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire . Infrared drones allow the Forest Service to safely and effectively monitor prescribed fires and verify that the fire is completely out.

“The Forest Service has an obligation to rebuild the trust of New Mexican communities devastated by the agency’s past negligence,” said Rep. Leger Fernández .“We cannot have another prescribed fire escape or another pile burn lay dormant for months. I appreciate the use of handheld infrared technology at prescribed burns. However, the handheld technology is insufficient. Firefighters and USFS personnel can use drones to access places that are difficult or impossible to reach on foot. New Mexicans deserve to feel safe in their homes knowing that the Forest Service will use every available technology to make sure the fire is out.”

Background 

During a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in April of this year, Congresswoman Leger Fernandez securedthe U.S. Forest Service Chief Moore’s commitment to use infrared drones on all prescribed burns. However, Forest Service staff recently walked back that commitment and stated at a public meeting that they do not have enough drones to use at every fire. 

Two Forest Service prescribed burns started the 2022 Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire that destroyed 341,471 acres – the largest wildfire in New Mexico history.  One of the burns was a Forest Service holdover pile burn that unknowingly smoldered for months. Simultaneously, the Cerro Pelado fire burned 45,605 acres. It wasn’t until this summer that the Forest Service admitted the Cerro Pelado fire was also caused by a dormant pile burn. The Forest Service did not use infrared drone technology to monitor either pile burn before they escaped.  In the Forest Service’s own review of prescribed burn management after the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire, the Forest Service found that “tools such as drones and infrared devices are not fully used in monitoring and patrolling prescribed fires.” The report continues, “Both infrared devices and drones could be used to improve situational awareness and support strategic tactical decisions.” 

After the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire started, Congresswoman demanded the Forest Service pause all prescribed burns – which they did. She also secured an independent Government Accountability Act (GAO) investigation into the Forest Service’s prescribed burn methods. During the April hearing, Chief Moore also committed to work with the Congresswoman and the GAO to implement its recommendations to improve prescribed burn management. In September of 2022, the Congresswoman passed the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act to secure $3.95 billion in compensation for victims of the fire.  She has continued to push the Federal Emergency Management Agency to more quickly compensate New Mexicans.

The full text of the letter is available here and below: 

Dear Chief Moore:

As you know, the United States Forest Service ( Forest Service ) has planned multiple prescribed burns in New Mexico over the coming weeks. I am concerned that the Forest Service might not use infrared drones during its upcoming prescribed burns in my district. New Mexicans rightfully distrust the Forest Service after three escaped prescribed burns in 2022 resulted in the destruction of 387,340 acres and hundreds of homes and the upheaval of tens of thousands of lives. I urge the Forest Service to immediately commit to use infrared drones for all future prescribed burns in New Mexico .

In a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee on April 26, 2023 , you committed to me to use infrared drones at every prescribed burn the Forest Service conducts in New Mexico . However, at a recent public meeting on October 13, 2023 Forest Service staff informed my constituents that the Forest Service does not have enough infrared drones to use at every prescribed burn in New Mexico .

It would be absolutely unacceptable for the Forest Service to fail to use these drones in New Mexico . That would undermine the credibility of the Forest Service . You have an obligation to rebuild the trust of New Mexican communities devastated by your agency’s past negligence. We cannot have another prescribed fire escape or another pile burn lay dormant for months. I appreciate the use of handheld infrared technology at prescribed burns. However, the handheld technology is insufficient. Firefighters and USFS personnel can use drones to access places that are difficult or impossible to reach on foot. New Mexicans deserve to feel safe in their homes knowing that the Forest Service will use every available technology to make sure the fire is out.

I request that you answer the following questions regarding Forest Service use of infrared drones.

  1. Will you commit to use infrared drones at every prescribed burn in New  Mexico from now on?
  2. Have infrared drones been used at every prescribed burn in New Mexico since the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire ?
  3. How many infrared drones does the Forest Service currently have?
  4. How many infrared drones does the Forest Service need to ensure there is a drone at every prescribed burn and wildfire?
  5. How much additional funding does the Forest Service require to make sure it has a sufficient number of infrared drones as well as adequately trained personnel to operate them?

Sincerely,

Teresa Leger Fernández

Member of Congress

MIL OSI USA News -

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.

See our dashboard in action - schedule an demo
Jason Irving
Jason Irving
- SVP Enterprise Solutions -

We offer built-to-order government & public policy coverage for our clients. Contact us for a free consultation.

About Us

We deliver market news & information relevant to your business.

We monitor all your market drivers.

We aggregate, curate, filter and map your specific needs.

We deliver the right information to the right person at the right time.

Our Contacts

1990 S Bundy Dr. Suite #380,
Los Angeles, CA 90025

+1 (310) 553 0008

About Cookies On This Site

We collect data, including through use of cookies and similar technology ("cookies") that enchance the online experience. By clicking "I agree", you agree to our cookies, agree to bound by our Terms of Use, and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. For more information on our data practices and how to exercise your privacy rights, please see our Privacy Policy.