Idaho sees shortage of firefighters amid ‘unprecedented’ wildfire conditions

Outdoor Idaho | Living with Wildfire

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

Idaho authorities are stressing the need for people to recreate responsibly, as Idaho is already seeing more than double the number of fires than the previous record.

“Idaho is experiencing severe drought and unprecedented fire conditions across most of the state,” said Idaho Department of Lands Director Dustin Miller. “Extreme fire conditions are at an all-time high and weather forecasts indicate that no relief is in the weeks ahead.”

Miller said during a press conference Tuesday at the National Interagency Fire Center that resources are already stretched thin and there is a significant shortage of people needed to fight fire.

Through an executive order last week, Gov. Brad Little activated the Idaho National Guard firefighters and declared a state of emergency due to wildfire.

DOL fire management chief Josh Harvey said as of Tuesday morning, they have responded to 202 fires this season. That’s 221% of their all-time record.

“I expect this number to increase as reporting becomes more accurate,” Harvey said.

There are several large incidents in Idaho being controlled, but many are in steep, rugged terrain making them hard to combat.

“We have met or exceeded nearly all metrics available related to fire danger and potential for significant fire growth and spread for this time of year,” Harvey said. 

The extended high temperatures and lack of spring moisture has exacerbated the problem. He reiterated that there is a significant shortage in the number of crews and trucks available to combat the fires.

Little said he wants the people of Idaho to do their part in helping control and prevent fires.

“We know we’re going to have a big fire season,” Little said. “I want people to stay safe, but I also want them to comply with the requests of their local land managers because of what kind of a difference that makes for everyone.”

Little said the Legislature appropriated $30 million for fire prevention and about $15 million has already been spent. But, deficiency warrants can be issued through the Board of Land Commissioners to provide additional funding if needed. The Board’s next meeting is set for July 20. 

Portions of the state are under Stage I and Stage II fire restrictions, and fire managers expect to announce additional restrictions in more parts of the state. IDL has an interactive website that displays current restrictions and what they mean.

Readers can visit www.idl.idaho.gov for the latest fire information.

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