"This is a godsend!" exclaimed Utah Gov. Gary Herbert late Thursday night, as he signed an agreement with the Department of the Interior to use state funds to reopen eight national park areas in his state for at least 10 days.
The Republican governor wasted no time in wiring $1.67 million to Washington overnight so that some of the areas can open as early as today. Rangers and other National Park Service employees will staff the parks as usual.
The 2013 wildfire season hit a milestone Tuesday: Preparedness Level 5, an officious way of saying resources are stretched thin and it could quickly get worse.
Preparedness Level 5 is the highest on the national wildfire preparedness scale, which the National Interagency Fire Center uses to chart wildfire activity, the deployment and availability of firefighters and equipment and the likelihood that more big fires are coming.
With 15,000 firefighters deployed and three dozen major wildfires currently burning in five Western states, this would seem to be a wildfire season for the record books. And in one tragic aspect, it is. But by most measures, 2013 is the second-mildest fire season in the past decade ... so far.