How The Idaho National Lab Prepares For Wildfire Season

May 20, 2013

Fire fighters at the Idaho National Laboratory are preparing for an intense wildfire season. Under the U.S. Department of Energy, the INL has its own fire department.

Credit Brad Washa / Boise National Forest

Eric Gosswiller is the site’s fire chief. He says a lack of snowpack in eastern Idaho means his department needs to be ready for fires. But he says that’s something his department has gotten used to.

“Down here at the high desert at the INL – we kind of have the potential for significant fires every year,” says Gosswiller.

Gosswiller says the 890-square-mile complex has three fire stations. The site has 22 firefighters.  And, if needed, he says wildland firefighters from the BLM and the Forest Service can be called into action. But federal budget cuts, known as the sequester, are forcing those agencies to hire fewer seasonal workers. 

Still, Gosswiller isn’t too worried.

“If we have a fire that’s threatening one of our nuclear facilities, I would be pretty confident that we’d be getting additional assistance," he says. "We would be a fairly high priority fire.”   

Gosswiller says the INL has lost power poles in previous grassland wildfires. He says his department clears grasses that could catch fire around buildings to create a “buffer zone.”  

The nuclear facility maintains four wildland fire engines, bulldozers and a three thousand gallon water tank.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio