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Longtime South Coast fire chief added to federal commission developing comprehensive approach to wildfires

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Lance Orozco
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Firefighters battling the 2017 Thomas Wildfire in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

Former Ventura County Fire Chief Bob Roper says we need to come up with a more comprehensive approach to the problem, with prevention key.

We’re now in high wildfire season, and the threat of major fires exists throughout the Tri-Counties.

The Biden Administration has created a new commission charged with coming up with strategies to better prevent, and control major blazes. The national Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission includes a longtime Ventura County firefighter who’s battled some of the biggest blazes in the region.

Bob Roper was a firefighter in Ventura County for more than 35 years, including serving the last 15 years of his career as Ventura County Fire Chief. He retired in 2012, and is now Senior Policy Advisor with the Western Fire Chiefs Association. He was selected as one of the more than two dozen members of the federal government’s new commission, which will develop recommendations for Congress.

"The current way we're dealing with wildfires is not necessarily working to its maximum capacity," said Roper. "We'll look at things outside the box in how we are dealing with wildfires."

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Lance Orozco
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KCLU
The 2018 Woolsey Fire burning in the Agoura Hills area.

Roper says it’s important we take a big look at the wildfire issues now. He believe the fires are becoming larger, and more intense.

"We used to have a standard fire season, and now it's year round," said Roper. "And now (the fires) are burning differently, and more severe."

The longtime firefighter, and Ojai Valley resident says to really tackle the issue, it means stepping up prevention.

"It's not just adding another fire truck, another helicopter... that's reactionary. We need to look at the holistic issue," he said.

Roper says even as the commission starts to look at long term answers, short term — the outlook is rough for the current high fire season.

"All the indicators are is that the fuels are drier... that's pretty evident," said Roper.

He says it's going to be a tough summer and fall.

The Biden Administration’s Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission is being run through FEMA. It includes representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and Homeland Security, as well as non-federal members like Bob Roper.

The goal is to develop some policy recommendations for Congress by late next summer.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.