Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Idaho Department of Lands discusses what kind of fire season is expected for summer 2015

Information from the Idaho Department of Lands

It's official: summer is here and weather and fuel conditions indicate 2015 will be an active fire season. The very hot temperatures and dry weather expected across Idaho this week will rapidly dry out both fine and heavy fuels, increasing fire potential. Fire managers are asking people to be extra careful in the outdoors so they do not accidentally start a fire. 

Most of the 74 fires that State of Idaho firefighters have put out so far this year have been caused by people, not lightning. Fires resulting from equipment, recreational shooting, and controlled burns that escaped make up most of the human-caused fires on lands protected by the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) and two timber protective associations.

As the Independence Day holiday approaches, Idahoans also are reminded that fireworks are prohibited on forest and range lands in Idaho during closed fire season (May 10 through October 20). 

Fire prevention and safety tips are available on the new web site,

Fire forecast

National fire weather forecasters told the Land Board last week they expect a near normal fire season in southern Idaho and an above normal fire season for northern Idaho, where the State of Idaho has much of the responsibility for fighting wildfire. 

Low snowpack and low soil moisture contributed to conditions in May and June that fire managers do not usually see until July. Tree stumps are burning three to four feet into the ground and bushes that usually stay green and absorb the fire to slow it down are actually burning and contributing to the spread of fire. The low subsoil moisture probably is the result of a cold snap last November prior to snowfall that did not allow winter rain to penetrate the soil, so fires likely will burn deep into the soil and will be difficult to mop up without water.

This year, Idaho forests are drought-stressed and more prone to insect and disease damage. Fine fuels such as grasses are more prevalent than would be expected in a typical drought situation thanks to well timed precipitation this year. A healthy snowpack usually will compact fine fuel vegetation from the previous season, but the limited snowpack this year left abundant standing fuels from last season to add to this growing season. 

Factors that affect the severity of a fire season are global weather patterns, temperature, precipitation (amount and timing), snowpack, drought, and vegetation development. 

Ten IDL forest protective districts and two timber protective associations together provide protection on more than 6.2 million acres of mostly State owned and privately owned timberlands in Idaho. Most of the lands we protect are located north of Grangeville. The other two fire agencies are the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Local fire districts and rangeland fire protection associations assist IDL, USFS, and BLM in our firefighting efforts. 

The goal is to keep 94 percent of fires that burn on State-protected lands to 10 acres or less in size.

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