12 Oct 2010, 8:39am
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Cost concerns weakened Forest Service’s assault on Station fire, study says

Agriculture Department’s review cites a letter before the blaze instructing fire managers to limit requests for crews, aircraft and equipment from state and local agencies.

By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2010 [here]

A desire to control costs slowed the arrival of “critical resources” in the attack on last year’s disastrous Station fire as the U.S. Forest Service delayed ordering reinforcements from other agencies that had crews and equipment at the ready, according to an internal federal review.

The finding contradicts statements made for more than a year by Forest Service officials, who have insisted repeatedly that cost concerns never impeded the Station battle. It is likely to sharpen questions about the firefighting decisionmaking as a local congressional panel prepares to examine the Forest Service’s actions.

The review by the Agriculture Department, which runs the Forest Service, echoes a Times report last fall that a Forest Service directive to reduce spending might have dissuaded fire managers from using more state and local strike teams and aircraft on the fateful second day of the blaze.

The new study also determined that the Forest Service, in opting to concentrate on protecting hillside neighborhoods and the communications towers and observatory on Mt. Wilson, did not stage a sustained direct assault on the back-country front of the fire as it spread into Angeles National Forest. … [more]

3 Oct 2010, 9:19am
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Sheriff says FS fire politics are putting homes and lives in danger

by: Noah Bond, ABC4 (SLC), 10/01/2010 [here]

BEAVER COUNTY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - New accusations are surfacing about why the Twitchell Canyon fire continues burning 74 days after it started. Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel suspects politics are putting lives and homes in danger.

He says in an October 1 meeting The U.S. Forest Service admitted it could have put the fire out in the first 24 hours but chose to let it burn.

Now the fire is visible from space, has burned 44,000 acres and has cost The Forest Service more than $15 million of your federal tax dollars to fight.

“Now next year they’re going to be able to go back to Washington and say, ‘Hey, this is the amount of money we used last year on these fires. We’re going to need the same amount this year,’ so it’s kind of a way to beef up their budget, but I don’t know if they’ll admit to that,” said Noel.

Sheriff Noel suspects The Forest Service is putting its desire to boost its budget above the safety of the 6,000 people he is sworn to protect in Beaver County. Noel is making the claim because, year after year, he says The Forest Service lets fires get out of hand just like it did with the Twitchell Canyon fire.

“They had the resources there. They probably could have had that fire out probably with in 24 hours, but they chose not to do that and that happens frequently,” said Noel.

He says this must stop! “The 911 calls that I got into my office. People were terrified. They thought for sure their home was going to burn up,” Noel said.

No homes have burned in Beaver County, but Noel says a few were lost in neighboring counties. The fire has caused havoc on his own County in other ways. “We had to shut down I-70. The smoke came into this community. It affected the Elderly people here,” Noel says they complained of headaches and of trouble breathing.

A frustrated Sheriff is crying out for help, hoping The Forest Service will hear him and the people in his County. … [more]

29 Sep 2010, 10:45am
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Forest Service releases Station fire transcripts

The agency says the recordings show that it was aggressively responding to the fire. But the data show a formal order for aircraft wasn’t placed.

By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2010 [here]

The U.S. Forest Service said Thursday that dispatch recordings illustrate that the agency aggressively attacked last year’s Station fire with the nearest available planes, but the conversations also show that officials did not place a commander’s orders for air tankers on the critical second morning of the blaze. …

The diverted tankers did not start reaching the Station fire until about 9 a.m., after the flames had jumped a key defense line and began raging out of control. The fire became the largest in Los Angeles County history, burning 250 square miles and destroying scores of homes and other structures. Two county firefighters died while defending their Mt. Gleason camp. …

A federal inspector general is investigating whether laws were broken when the recordings were not turned over last year to a Forest Service review team and The Times.

The investigative arm of Congress is conducting a broader probe of the fire, examining the Forest Service’s decisions and tactics, including whether there were avoidable delays in getting aircraft to the blaze on the morning of Day 2. … [more]

10 Sep 2010, 3:54pm
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Forest Service Chief Mum on Why He Imposed Gag Order

Agency Faces FOIA Lawsuit for Failing to Turn Over Documents

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) News Release, September 9, 2010 [here]

WASHINGTON - September 9 - The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service is wrongfully withholding documents explaining why he imposed a “gag order” forbidding all staff from responding to media inquiries without headquarters approval, according to a lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The policy prevents timely release of crime, fire and accident reports, as well as adding weeks to the response time for even routine reporter inquiries.

On August 25, 2009, Thomas L. Tidwell, Chief of the Forest Service, issued an order to his leadership directorate concerning “National Media Contacts” in which he forbade any employee from responding to “a member of the national media on any subject; or…a local or regional reporter seeking information about a national issue, including policy and budget issues” without prior clearance from the National Press Office (emphasis in original). In this memo, Chief Tidwell also stated that “I have received disturbing information concerning contacts by some employees with national media, without coordination” and cited the need for “consistent and coordinated messaging.”

On February 16, 2010, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Forest Service asking for all documents reflecting the rationale or circumstances leading up to the issuance of the gag order. On April 26, 2010, the agency declared that other than the Chief’s memo itself it had no further documents that could shed light on why it was issued.

“This memo was not the product of immaculate conception, springing fully formed from the Chief’s forehead,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that as a result of the memo national forest units contacted by a reporter must first file a 20-part “Forest Service Media Coordination Request” and await official approvals before responding to inquiries. “This order prevents Forest Service law enforcement from doing their job in cases where media cooperation can be a major asset.”

While the Forest Service claims that Chief Tidwell’s memo simply reaffirmed pre-existing policy, the memo goes much further. For example, it superseded provisions in the agency’s Law Enforcement Handbook that “Responses to requests for background information from the national news media should be provided…and do not require U.S. Department of Agriculture, Press Office approval.” More significantly, the handbook also provided that law enforcement personnel “may provide factual information to the media” concerning “emergency or fast-moving situations” such as accidents or crimes.

“President Obama promised a new level of transparency but on any issue of potential controversy, the same old penchant for secrecy still controls,” said PEER Counsel Christine Erickson, who drafted the complaint filed today in federal district court in Washington, D.C., noting the irony of official obfuscation over the basis for its public communication policy. “In order to get Freedom of Information Act compliance under this administration, we have had to file on average a new lawsuit every month.”

8 Sep 2010, 11:28pm
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GAO will probe Forest Service’s handling of Station fire

The investigative arm of Congress acts on a request by California lawmakers after questions are raised about the tactics and decisions used to fight the largest fire in L.A. County history.

By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2010 [here]

Acting on a request by California lawmakers, the investigative arm of Congress has agreed to conduct a broad inquiry into the U.S. Forest Service’s handling of last year’s devastating Station fire, officials said Wednesday.

The state’s two U.S. senators and several House members last month urged the Government Accountability Office to examine the Forest Service’s decisions and tactics in the fire fight, including its use of aircraft and whether enough was done to protect homes that burned in Big Tujunga Canyon.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said in a statement that the GAO investigation would “help us to better understand the events surrounding the initial response to the Station fire to improve the response to future fires.”

Schiff and other local House members plan to convene a panel in the Los Angeles area in the near future to look into the first stages of the Station fire operation. A session scheduled for last month was canceled because the legislators were called back to Washington.

In addition, a U.S. inspector general is investigating the Forest Service’s failure to release recordings of telephone dispatch calls to a federal review team and the public. The Times sought the recordings last year and again this year under the Freedom of Information Act, but Forest Service officials said they did not exist. The inspector general’s probe could lead to criminal charges, depending on its findings. … [more]

8 Sep 2010, 2:55pm
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Bad Golf Shot Starts Wildfire

by Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky, AllGov.com, September 04, 2010 [here]

A bad slice into the rough not only can burn a golf score but also the surrounding terrain. That’s what a golfer at Shady Canyon Golf Club in Irvine, California, found out on August 28 when he hit a rock while chipping his way back onto the course behind the fourth green. The rock strike apparently produced a spark that immediately ignited the dry brush, setting a blaze that eventually consumed 25 acres. It took 150 firefighters, 38 trucks, 53 helicopter drops and 22,000 gallons of water to put the brush fire out. No homes were damaged, and no charges were filed against the golfer.

Although suspicions immediately arose that the golfer had actually been smoking, club officials confirmed that neither the golfer nor the other members of his party-his wife and another couple-were smokers. Steve Buck, the general manager of Shady Canyon, also dismissed the skeptics, noting that a similar incident happened a few years ago, but that that time the golfer had been able to put out the fire before it spread.

More ‘Climate Change” Ripoffs

Researchers study link between climate, wildfire

The Associated Press, Oregonian, September 01, 2010 [here]

Scientists from universities in Montana, Colorado and Idaho announced today the start of a 5-year, $3.85 million research project into how a changing climate will influence wildfires.

The project is being pursued in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and researchers in Australia and New Zealand. The goal is to identify how human activities and climate change drive fires.

“One thing is clear: The frequency and severity of fires have increased around and world and this is considered to be one of the signs of global climate change,” Montana State University professor Cathy Whitlock, the lead investigator for the project, said in a statement. … [more]

Note: The temperature data for 1983-2009 from the National Climatic Data Center [here] for the West North Central Region (Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Wyoming).

Note that there has been no significant warming for the last 20 years. If there has been no warming, how can warming be the cause of anything????

Giving tax money to hoaxers is a phenomenal waste of resources.

13 Aug 2010, 11:09am
Latest Fire News Tramps and Thieves
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Retardant comes under fire

By Damon Arthur, Record-Searchlight, July 31, 2010 [here]

More than 81,000 gallons of retardant were dropped on two of the biggest fires in the north state in the past two weeks.

That kind of firefighting strategy is coming under closer scrutiny, though, as a federal judge has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to take a closer look at the environmental effects of dropping fire retardant on wildland fires.

“The government has to begin to reassess how, where and when this is done,” said Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE), which sued the Forest Service over its use of chemical fire retardant.

“Retardant is toxic,” Stahl said.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Donald Malloy of Missoula, Mont., ruled that the Forest Service needs to complete an environmental-impact statement on the use of retardant by the end of 2011, The Associated Press reported.

The case dates back to a lawsuit filed by FSEEE in 2003, challenging the use of retardant without an environmental impact report, AP reported. The case was dismissed in 2008 after the Forest Service completed an environmental assessment.

But FSEEE filed again in 2008, claiming the environmental document was inadequate, AP said. … [more]

Note: Fire is toxic. But promoting holocausts is the FSEEE’s thing. Sue, sue, then sue again. In Judge Molloy’s court. Be sure to read the comments on this article!

2 Aug 2010, 12:06pm
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Judge Molloy’s ruling causes uncertainty over slurry use in firefighting

By Rob Chaney, the Missoulian, July 31, 2010 [here]

As the U.S. Forest Service struggles to find a new plane to drop fire retardant, it may also need a new fire retardant to drop.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Don Molloy ruled the agency didn’t do enough research on ammonium-based retardant’s toxic effects on plants and animals. While he didn’t block the use of slurry, he did order the Forest Service to more thoroughly examine the chemical mixture’s effects by the end of 2011. …

The group Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics brought the suit against the Forest Service. FSEEE argued ammonium-based retardants have been blamed for destroying both fish and plant habitats. The slurry kills fish outright, and its fertilizing properties invite noxious weeds and other invaders into rare-plant soils.

The Forest Service already has rules for where retardants can be dropped around water sources. But Molloy ruled the agency needs to produce more specific data on the impacts to threatened or endangered species. … [more]

Note: Fire retardant saves lives, including those of fish and FS employees. FS employees know those facts. Why then do FS employees wish to ban fire retardant? Are they suicidally insane? Or could it be that the FSEEE does not actually represent most FS employees?

28 Jul 2010, 10:08pm
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Prescribed Fires and CO2

A controversial NOAA study estimating CO2 released by US prescribed fires says they could actually cut emissions

by David Malakoff, The Guardian UK, Conservation Magazine, 28 July 2010 [here]

Call it a hot topic. A study suggesting that intentional forest blazes could significantly cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from wildfires in the Western United States has prompted a piquant scholarly quarrel. The exchange highlights the challenge forest managers may face in balancing plans to use fire to restore forest ecosystems with efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Forests have emerged as a key player in climate change because trees can suck huge amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere and “sequester” the carbon for decades. A raging wildfire, however, can reverse those gains in just a few days by vaporizing vast swathes of timber. In the Western United States, concerns about the climate impacts of wildfires have grown, as centuries of fire suppression has left forests packed with tinder ripe for combustion. And researchers fear fire risks could rise in the future, as the western climate become hotter and drier.

To reduce the threat of runaway infernos – and help restore fire-starved forest ecosystems — some researchers advocate “prescribed burns.” These intentional fires tend to burn cooler and vaporize less wood, leading some researchers to wonder just how much they might also help reduce CO2 emissions from wildfires.

To find out, Christine Wiedinmyer of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado and Matthew Hurteau Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, estimated how much CO2 had been released by wildfires in the western U.S. from 2001 to 2008. Then, they estimated what the total might have been if the wildfires had been replaced by cooler, more controlled prescribed burns. The result, they reported in the 11 February online issue of Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), is that the planned fires might have cut CO2 emissions by 18% to 25% in the western U.S., and by as much as 60% in specific forest types.

Those numbers, however, are the product of “a fundamentally unrealistic scenario,” argue Garrett W. Meigs and John L. Campbell of Oregon State University in Corvallis. In a comment published online in ES&T on July 23, the pair says the original study makes some “completely unrealistic” assumptions, such as that prescribed fires would be 100% effective in eliminating wildfires and that no prescribed fire would escape control. Still, the critics say Wiedinmyer and Hurteau did make some “important
improvements” in clarifying the climate implications of forest fires. For instance, they concluded that wildfires release about twice as much carbon per-unit-area as prescribed fires, far less than the 10-fold increase assumed by earlier studies. Overall, however, Miegs and Campbell say prescribed burns to improve ecosystem health may well reduce the carbon-storing capacity of forests over the short run. And they worry that “the authors present misleading conclusions that could result in flawed forest carbon policies.”

Wideinmyer and Hurteau fire back in a response in the same issue, writing that the criticism stems from a “misunderstanding” of a key term, and a “faulty assessment” of their methods. Their goal, they note, was to set an “upper bound” on the potential benefits of prescribed burns, and not to advocate for particular policies. Not surprisingly, both sides suggest that the fire and climate issue would benefit from more research – perhaps after a cooling off period.

Sources: Wiedinmyer, C., & Hurteau, M. (2010). Prescribed Fire As a Means of Reducing Forest Carbon Emissions in the Western United States. Environmental Science & Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es902455e

Meigs, G., & Campbell, J. (2010). Comment on “Prescribed Fire As a Means of Reducing Forest Carbon Emissions in the Western United States.” Environmental Science & Technology DOI: 10.1021/es101595t

Hurteau, M., & Wiedinmyer, C. (2010). Response to Comment on “Prescribed Fire As a Means of Reducing Forest Carbon Emissions in the Western United States.” Environmental Science & Technology DOI: 10.1021/es102186b

20 Jul 2010, 2:01pm
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Crews standing by as fire winds down

By Michele Mihalovich - The Wenatchee World - Friday, July 16, 2010 [here]

ENTIAT — The Swakane Canyon fire probably will not be completely out until the first snow flies.

Because this fire is different from what people near Wenatchee are used to, a public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Entiat Grange, 14108 Kinzel St., said Vladimir Steblina, a spokesman for the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team.

He said fires in this area typically happen in late July, when vegetation is dried out.

“So it’s usually done and over with pretty quickly,” Steblina said.

This fire, which has moved into Wenatchee National Forest at about 4,500 feet above sea level, is coming into contact with green trees and a lot of soggy dead foliage on the ground, he said.

“That’s going to cause a lot of smoldering,” Steblina said. “But when that soggy stuff starts drying out, we will see it flame up.”

There are no homes in the area of concern.

Steblina said the fire is expected to be contained Saturday; but he can’t say when it will be controlled.

He said 389 firefighters will be working on the fire today, dwindling to about half that on Saturday. By Sunday, the crew will be down to about 65 firefighters.

He said crews will man the fire for at least the next two months.

Steblina said the state Department of Natural Resources is investigating the cause of the 20,000-acre fire, which was first reported at about noon Saturday.

In the first few days, the fire quickly burned more than 6,000 acres of dry, grassy areas.

6 Jul 2010, 8:16am
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Firefighters Not Responding To 500-Acre Blaze

by Steve Large, CBS13, Jul 5, 2010 [here]

A fire has already destroyed hundreds of acres of land and several structures on an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but homeowners say they are fighting the fires without the help of any firefighters because their land doesn’t reside in any fire district.

Residents of Bradford Island in Contra Costa County have been alone in their fight against the fire, which has burned 500 acres of land and four homes over three days.

Property owner Jim Folsom has resorted to using his tractor to create firebreaks in the brush.

“We couldn’t get any help. We had to do something,” Folsom said. “You can see what it burned up. It burned those houses, the levee… it just keeps on going.”

According to state firefighting agency CAL FIRE, Bradford Island is in no-man’s land: Surrounded by fire districts but not actually in one.

The closest district is East Contra Costa County, but department officials said they only respond to fires on the island if the flames are threatening lives. The latest fire assessment has concluded that lives are not imminently threatened.

Island residents reacted with anger at officials’ explanation.

“They pulled out of here, they had better things to do, and we weren’t important,” said property owner Mike Warren.

Warren said he estimated that 20 to 25 percent of the island has already burned as of Monday night.

The fire is still active and shows few signs of slowing. … [more]

Note: Comment by RSW - The residents of Bradford Island do not pay taxes to fund fire supression in their area. Thus they are not entitled to fire protection from the state or county, BY THEIR OWN CHOICE. It is sad that so much has been destroyed, however if they are unwilling to pay for protection, it is unjust that other citizens should have to spend their tax dollars to pick up the tab.

Obama’s Deliberate Katrina

by Paul Driessen, Townhall.com, 7/3/2010 [here]

Back in May, a television news program asked me if I’d tell America the BP oil spill is President Obama’s Katrina. We discussed the spill’s causes, effects and cleanup effort, but I wouldn’t give them the “red meat” they were looking for. So I lost my 15 minutes of national fame.

Since then, it has become obvious that the Katrina analogy is inappropriate. The 2005 hurricane was marked by abject failures by the New Orleans mayor and Louisiana governor, and initially inept responses by FEMA and the Bush administration.

The 2010 oil spill is defined by yeoman’s efforts by Gulf Coast governors – and an Obama administration response that is leagues beyond inept. It is proactively incompetent and obstructionist, as though it is determined not to let this crisis go to waste – but to prolong and intensify the environmental and economic calamity, to advance its political objectives: shutting down offshore leasing and drilling, bringing the US oil industry into the automotive-banking-housing-healthcare sphere of federal control, forcing a massive shift to costly renewable energy, and ramming cap-tax-and-trade through Congress.

How else can anyone explain the litany of bureaucratic decisions that have squandered opportunities to shield beaches, fisheries and estuaries from the expanding slick, before hurricanes hammer cleanup efforts? Ponder this unconscionable malfeasance by the EPA, Corps of Engineers, Interior Department, Fish and Wildlife Service, OSHA, Justice Department, White House and Congress… [more]

Note: Deepwater is yet another deliberate environmental disaster perpetrated and exacerbated by the Federal Government. Where have we seen this kind of thing before? Megafires. The Government has an agenda of inflicted crisis. It is more than rank incompetence. Look at the policies: an unguarded border, hopeless foreign wars, a collapsed economy, decadent schools, Let It Burn, Let It Gush, wolves at your door, you name it. Power feeds off social crisis. The Government manufactures disasters on purpose.

Forests of red tape

By The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Editorial, July 1, 2010 [here]

Here’s what Colorado Sen. Mark Udall was frustrated about this week:

Some $30 million in federal funds authorized by Congress to clear beetle-killed trees in Colorado’s high country has been bollixed up by a federal planning process and, as a result, isn’t getting into the forests to do the work it’s meant to do.

Here’s what an Interior Department spokesman said in response to Udall’s letter expressing his concerns:

“The issues that Sen. Udall raises in his letter are important, and we are reviewing his letter.”

Great. Another federal review should really speed things up.

Udall has good reason to be frustrated, as do people in the communities most affected by the beetle infestation that has attacked trees on both public and private lands.

Udall worked hard to ensure the $30 million was authorized in the federal budget for the 2010 fiscal year. Once it was, affected communities expected the money would be put to work by now — the heart of the summer fire season — clearing beetle-killed trees near towns and rural residential areas. After all, a major reason for allocating the money was to protect communities from fire danger.

Instead, it has been bogged down in a planning process involving three federal agencies that are supposedly trying to identify where the top priorities are for tree removal.

Setting priorities for spending the money and removing trees is definitely important. But it shouldn’t be an excuse for doing nothing, nine months after the fiscal year began. Planning is not an end in itself. At least it shouldn’t be.

The Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service obviously need to pick up the pace.

We applaud Sen. Udall for pushing them to do just that. Members of Congress are always eager to take credit for funding they shepherd through Congress to help citizens in their districts. But, too often they ignore what occurs after the money is authorized, or throw up their hands in frustration at the snail-like pace of the federal bureaucracy.

26 Jun 2010, 5:24pm
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Manitoba Fire Update Report

Operations Division - Fire Program - Manitoba Conservation, June 26, 2010 [here]

Dry conditions and high fire dangers persist in northern Manitoba. Three new fires have occurred in the northeast region, all are under control. One large fire between Sherridon and Cranberry Portage is threatening roads and forestry values in the area. This fire has reached the Grass River Provincial Park and has grown in size to approximately 52,000 hectares. Provincial Highway #10 and #39 remain open, but smoke continues to be a concern. The Sherridon Road remains closed. A large suppression effort including fire crews, water bombers, bulldozers, skidders and helicopters are being used to battle this fire. Out of province water bombers, and firefighters are assisting from Ontario, British Columbia and Minnesota. An additional 52 firefighters from British Columbia and Minnesota are expected today to help in the suppression efforts. …

A total of 244 fires have occurred so far this season burning a total of 81,715 hectares. This is in comparison to the twenty year average of 253 fires and 207,253 hectares as of this date. Of the 244 fires, 186 were human caused and 58 were started by lightning.

  • For the benefit of the interested general public, W.I.S.E. herein presents news clippings from other media outlets. Please be advised: a posting here does not necessarily constitute or imply W.I.S.E. agreement with or endorsement of any of the content or sources.
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