Fire Officials Look To Fall Weather For Respite

Sep 17, 2012

Credit Salmon-Challis National Forest

Idaho’s forest fires have claimed 1.5 million acres this year, from more than 1,000 separate fires.

One of the largest fires, the Mustang Complex, has burned 297,550 acres and is only 16 percent contained.  

As fall sets in, fire officials hope to be rounding the corner on the magnitude and impact of the fires still burning. Jeremy Sullens is a wildland fire analyst with the National Interagency Fire Center.

“Largely what we’re seeing in Idaho and really the rest of the northwestern corridor of the country right now, is that we’ve sort of hit a point in the year where we have shorter days," says Sullens. "And what those shorter days do is lead to shorter burning periods. We have long nights that are cold and the humidity comes up during those cold nights.”

Sullens says that these shorter days help fire fighters find success in battling the blazes. He says this year there has been an elevated number of acres burned per fire compared to past years. For example, last year Idaho saw more fires but only 384,000 acres were destroyed.

So when will Idaho’s fires be contained? Sullens says forecasters are anxiously waiting for the first snowfall.

“That’s basically what it’s going to take at this point to get the fires out of the national picture is some sort of heavy season ending type event, either precipitation or snowfall.”

If precipitation doesn’t come soon, Sullens says that his agency’s resources may be stretched as Southern California’s fire activity picks up.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio