Wildfires

Wildfires
5:32 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Forest Service Budget Covers Firefighting Costs For First Time In 3 Years

Credit U.S. Forest Service

 A slow wildfire season in the U.S. means the Forest Service won’t have to dip into other parts of its budget to cover firefighting expenses. The federal government’s fiscal year ends Tuesday. It’s the first time in three years the agency’s firefighting allotment will cover actual costs.

The Forest Service exceeded its firefighting budget by $505 million last summer, and $440 million the year before.

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Wildfires
9:55 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Idaho Ranchers And Feds Reach Truce On Long-Standing Battle Over Fighting Wildfires

Charlie Lyons of Mountain Home, Idaho helped form one of the first Rangeland Fire Protective Associations in the state.
Credit Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

For years there's been a battle raging between Idaho ranchers and the federal government over whether ranchers should be able to fight wildfires.

Ranchers say they've always just gone out there, with their trucks and tanks of water and try to put the fires out themselves. The feds have said, leave it to the pros and don't make yourself a liability.

At times it's almost come close to blows. But now a truce has been struck that could change the way fires are fought every summer.

High costs of wildfires

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Wildfire
11:15 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Wildfire Near Cascade Grows To 75 Acres

The cause of the Bull Fire is under investigation.
Credit Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

This story was updated at 12:05 p.m. Sept. 22.

A small wildfire burning southeast of Cascade has grown to 75 acres. The Bull Fire is burning in a remote area on the Boise National Forest.

Forest officials say 115 firefighters are now working on the blaze.

No structures are threatened by the fire, but the forest has closed a handful of trails in the area.

It’s not clear what started the fire, its cause is under investigation.

This story was originally posted at 11:15 a.m. Sept. 19.

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Air Quality
4:50 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

You Can Blame Idaho’s Smoky Skies On California

Credit National Weather Service

The air quality in the Treasure Valley has dropped from good to moderate, thanks to a change in winds that’s bringing in smoke from the south. The National Weather Service in Boise reports the sudden influx of smoke into Idaho is due to a change in the wind pattern.

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Wildfires
9:41 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Why Remotely Monitored Video Cameras Are Replacing Some Human Fire Lookouts In The West

These remotely-monitored cameras scan for forest fires from a historic fire lookout in Douglas County, Oregon.
Credit Courtesy of DFPA

Remotely monitored video cameras are replacing some human fire lookouts on mountaintops around the Northwest.

A private non-profit called the Douglas Forest Protective Association was the first in the region to switch to remote camera fire detection. The southwest Oregon-based association deployed its first system in 2007.

The firefighting consortium's Kyle Reed said it has now replaced all of its manned fire lookouts with video cameras.

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Wildfires
5:02 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Remotely Monitored Video Cameras Replace Some Human Fire Lookouts

These remotely-monitored cameras scan for forest fires from a historic fire lookout in Douglas County, Oregon.
Douglas Forest Protective Association

Remotely monitored video cameras are replacing some human fire lookouts on mountaintops around the Northwest.

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Wildfire Costs
6:05 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

U.S. Will Likely Borrow Up To $400 Million For Fighting This Season's Wildfires

Credit U.S. Forest Service

The Obama administration is detailing the toll that the escalating cost of fighting forest fires has had on other projects, as it pushes Congress to overhaul how it pays for the most severe fires.

In a new report issued Wednesday, the Agriculture Department said that staffing for fighting fires has more than doubled since 1998.

Meanwhile, the number of workers who manage National Forest System lands has dropped by about a third.

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Wildfires
1:50 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Bigger, Faster Air Tankers Help Forest Service Tackle Wildfires

A DC-10 firefighting aircraft drops fire retardant in northern California in 2008. As the Forest Service expands and modernizes its fleet of air tankers, it has recently added several DC-10s.
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 9:47 am

In the battle against wildfires, the Forest Service often draws on a fleet of air tankers — planes that drop fire retardant from the sky.

But the fleet shrank dramatically in the early 2000s, and by 2012, the Forest Service was woefully low on planes. Now, the agency is quickly increasing the number of planes at its disposal — and modernizing the fleet in the process by adding bigger, faster and more efficient planes.

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Wildfires
4:09 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Fire Managers: Keep Drones Away From Wildfires

Credit Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Those who oversee the government’s aerial firefighting operations are asking the public to keep drones away from wildfires. Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise say there have been three instances this year in which drones interfered with aerial firefighting.

One of the incidents occurred in early June over the Two Bulls Fire in Oregon. Another was on the Carlton Complex Fire in north central Washington in July. And officials say the third - in northern California - recently forced firefighters to shut down their aerial attack for a period of time.

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Wildfires
10:00 am
Mon August 11, 2014

7,000 Acre Timber Butte Fire Burning North Of Boise

Credit Inciweb

A 7,000 acre fire burning north of Boise near the town of Sweet, Idaho made a significant run after sparking Saturday afternoon. The Timber Butte Fire is burning in Gem and Boise counties.  

The Idaho Department of Lands is managing the fire, and is scheduled to hand over command to a Type 2 incident management team. Three outbuildings have burned in the fire. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.  Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio

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Wildfires
9:35 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Idaho's Big Cougar Fire Burns 100 Square Miles Near Lewiston

A firefighter works on the Big Cougar fire near Lewiston.
Credit Idaho Department of Lands

This story was updated at 9:45 a.m. Aug. 11, 2014

The Big Cougar fire burning in northern Idaho has charred 65,000 acres and is 50 percent contained.

The Idaho Department of Lands reports nine structures have now been destroyed by the fire that is burning south of Lewiston. An additional 200 structures are still considered threatened.

Lightning sparked the fire August 2. Mandatory and voluntary evacuations are still in effect for some residents in the area. Click here to find the latest.

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Science
9:32 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Are Western Wildfires Really Getting Worse? 3 Recent Studies Say No

Smoke rises from the Snag Canyon fire burning in southeast Washington.
Credit Inciweb

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it’s ever been. But there’s a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

Three fresh science papers from separate institutions each makes the case that today's forest fires in the West burn less than in historical times. One of the co-authors is Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon.

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Wildfires
5:13 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Northwest Cattle Ranchers Struggling With Wildfires

File photo of cattle receiving fresh water and feed after being stressed by fire.

Northwest cattle ranchers are struggling to get their herds out of the way of raging wildfires. Some herds have been lost, others badly injured.

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Wildfire Funding
9:11 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Ag Secretary: Wildfire Funding Almost Gone (Again)

Credit Boise National Forest

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the U.S. Forest Service will soon have to tap into programs designed to prevent wildfires so that it can meet the expenses of fighting blazes this summer.

Vilsack says about $400 million to $500 million in forestry projects will have to be put on hold in what has become a routine exercise.

He predicted that the money set aside strictly for firefighting will run out by the end of August.

Some 30 large fires are working their way through federal and state forests in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

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Wildfires
11:21 am
Mon August 4, 2014

Study Finds Poor Planning Contributes To Wildfire Costs

The 2013 Beaver Creek Fire near Hailey, Idaho burned dangerously close to homes.
Credit Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

Wildfires in the West are getting bigger, hotter and more costly. A new report from a national science advocacy group says climate change is one major reason wildfires are getting worse. And short-sighted development policies are a big reason they’re costing more.

In recent years, the number of homes and businesses built in wildfire-prone areas has skyrocketed. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, across 13 Western states there are more than 1.2 million homes -- with a combined value of about $190 billion -- that are at high or very high risk of wildfires.

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Around the Nation
4:21 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Thousands Of Inmates Serve Time Fighting The West's Forest Fires

Emir Dunn, an inmate firefighter stationed at the Chamberlain Creek Conservation fire camp in California, at work on a fire. About 4,000 inmate firefighters battle blazes across the state.
Adam Grossberg KQED

Originally published on Sat August 2, 2014 7:34 am

As wildfire season rages in California, firefighting help is coming from an unexpected place: prison. Thousands of low-level offenders have become a crucial component of how the state battles wildfires.

If there's a wildfire here, there are inmates battling it.

Emir Dunn is one of the inmates working a wildfire in the mountainous area of northern California near Oregon. The fire has already scorched nearly 13,000 acres and the temperatures here are unrelenting.

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Wildfires
10:13 am
Thu July 31, 2014

7 Lightning-Caused Fires Spark On The Boise National Forest

Seven small lightning-caused wildfires are burning on the Boise National Forest after Wednesday night's storm. Forest officials say all the fires are small, at less than 5 acres each, and no structures are threatened.

Firefighters already have lines built around most of the new starts.

The largest fire is called the Crooked Fire, burning southeast of Kirkham.

Fire officials say more lightning-caused fires could be detected over the next few days.

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio

Policy
9:54 am
Thu July 31, 2014

Court Denies Survivor Benefits For Families Of Fallen Contract Wildland Firefighters

Mark Ransdell was a 23-year-old contract firefighter who died in a fiery van crash in 2003. A federal appeals court recently ruled that the families of contract firefighters do not qualify for federal survivor benefits.
Credit Photo courtesy: Ransdell family

Contract firefighters can often be found on the front lines. They’re usually indistinguishable from government firefighters. But a recent court ruling has re-emphasized that if they’re killed in the line of duty, there’s a big difference.  

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Wildfires
2:08 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

As Wildfires Burn Through Funds, Washington Seeks New Way To Pay

A line of fire snakes along a hillside at dusk on July 18 in Winthrop, Wash., where a fire destroyed about 100 homes. Officials say that fire damage, overall, is down this summer, but that firefighting costs are skyrocketing.
Elaine Thompson AP

Originally published on Wed July 30, 2014 5:07 pm

Though wildfires this summer have burned hundreds of homes and scorched thousands of square miles of land in Washington, Oregon and California, officials say that so far, this wildfire season could be worse.

But the cost of fighting those fires has skyrocketed, and the Obama administration and some in Congress say it's time to rethink how those dollars are spent.

In places like central Washington, watching the evening news has recently not been for the faint of heart, with daily broadcasts chronicling evacuations of local towns with the approach of "firestorms."

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Wildfires
10:50 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Idaho's Whiskey, Mack Fires Fully Contained

Mop up work on the fires will continue this week.
Credit Boise National Forest

Idaho's Whiskey Complex and Mack fires burning north of Boise are now fully contained. A Boise National Forest spokesman says mop up and monitoring of the fires will continue Monday.

The Whiskey Complex was a series of fires sparked by lightning on July 13. It has burned 9,446 acres south of Garden Valley on the Boise National Forest. Spokesman David Olson says isolated areas of smoke will still be visible this week as the fire smolders within its containment lines.

The Mack fire was one of 27 fires started by lightning last week. It burned 229 acres.

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