Wildfires

BLM

Authorities say a cyclist started a 73-acre wildfire in southwest Idaho by lighting his toilet paper on fire after taking a comfort break.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say the cyclist stopped to defecate in a ravine in the Boise foothills on Wednesday afternoon. The man then lit the toilet paper on fire but lost control of the embers in the dry grass while trying to extinguishing the waste.

Firefighters contained the flames several hours later.

Kari Greer / Boise National Forest

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter says closing public access to some state forest lands amid wildfire concerns by private timberland owners is an option that has to be considered due to extreme fire danger this year.

Consultant Jim Riley on Tuesday told Otter and other members of the Idaho Land Board that a million acres of private land has been closed this year to the public due to potential wildfire.

Riley says the private owners are concerned about human-caused fires starting on state land and spreading to neighboring timber stands.

National Interagency Fire Center

When officials at the National Interagency Fire Service (NIFC) forecast the 2015 season, they made it clear that what we know of as “normal” in wildfires has shifted in recent years. Prolonged drought, larger and more difficult to manage fires, have become regular occurrences in the West.

A wildfire burning near the Idaho town of Bayview didn't change much overnight.

The fire remains at about 2,000 acres and has destroyed at least six homes.

Fire spokesman Geremy Olsen says fire crews are hoping to make progress Wednesday in containing the fire, if weather cooperates.

Olsen says progress depends on winds staying down. He also says there are predictions of thunderstorms in the Idaho panhandle, which could spark new fires.

Bayview is located on the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille (PAHN-duh-ray) and the fire started on Sunday.

Idaho fire managers are urging hundreds of residents to leave their homes in an upscale lakeside community threatened by wildfire.

The blaze has destroyed at least six homes and already forced about 200 people to evacuate from Bayview, a small town on Lake Pend Oreille, a recreation and fishing destination in the Idaho panhandle.

Officials on Monday recommended the rest of the town immediately evacuate as strong winds, rising temperatures and low humidity threatened to fan the flames later in the day.

fs.usda.gov

When local wildfire agencies are concerned that fire danger in their area is getting extreme, they can ask for a visit from a national team of experts. One of those teams has been in Boise this week. National Wildfire Prevention and Education Teams conduct short, intense messaging campaigns. The National Interagency Fire Center describes the program this way.

U.S. Forest Service

Drones are a growing concern for those who fight the nation’s wildfires, and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise is again asking those who fly drones to keep them away from fires.

Twice last week, aerial firefights on the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California had to be suspended because of nearby Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS.   

CJ Buckwalter / Flickr

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has announced $10 million for land restoration projects in 13 states in a strategy to reduce catastrophic wildfires.

Jewell said Friday that making land more resilient to fire is essential for vulnerable species and for healthy rangelands, forests and watersheds.

Eight of the states are in the West, with projects in conifer forests and sagebrush rangelands, where wildfires have been especially destructive in the last decade. Sagebrush is also habitat for sage grouse, an imperiled bird under consideration for federal protections.

AgriLife Today / Flickr Creative Commons

The city-owned Oregon Trail Reserve is surrounded by homes. After a fast and hot-burning grassfire killed a woman and destroyed homes there in 2008, the Boise Fire Department began looking at new ways to deal with wildfire. The department used a grant from the Southwest Idaho Resource Conservation and Development Council to start using a different strategy: grazing goats to thin fire-fueling plants. 

Brad Washa / Boise National Forest

Federal officials say a wildland firefighter has died after a physical training exercise.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says 33-year-old Terry Sonner of Hammett died Wednesday morning after collapsing.

Agency spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto says attempts by crewmembers to revive Sonner failed. The cause of death hasn't been determined.

Sonner began firefighting in 2001 and advanced to become the fire operations supervisor of the Hammett Guard Station Engine Crew in Hammett, about 60 miles southeast of Boise.

Helen K / Flickr Creative Commons

Heads of federal agencies in charge of fighting wildfires say northern Idaho will have one of the worst fire seasons in the country this year. Arizona, California and Alaska are already experiencing a severe fire season. But much of the rest of the West is currently at low risk because of wet spring weather. However, Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell said in a briefing Tuesday, as the summer progresses, the fire danger zones will shift.  

Update 4:53 p.m.:

Fire officials say the flames are no longer threatening 20 homes.  The BLM says the fire should be contained by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Original Post: Air and ground crews are responding to a wildfire in southwestern Idaho just outside Melba that's threatening 20 homes.

Owyhee County dispatchers say residents in the area have been warned to be ready to evacuate.

A spokesman with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says flames broke out on private land and quickly spread on Tuesday afternoon.

Sally Jewell, sage grouse
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise says a wet spring reduced the likelihood of wildfires during June over much of the nation, but the risk is above normal in drought-stricken California.

Hawaii and parts of the Southwest and Alaska are also at above-normal risk.

As the summer progresses, fire danger is expected to increase in the Northwest, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will discuss wildfire threats and the nationwide outlook for the wildfire season Tuesday in Denver.

Idaho Black Bear Rehab/Idaho Statesman

 The black bear cub injured in a Washington wildfire last year is about to go home.

The Idaho Statesman reports the 2-year-old female black bear named Cinder will be released into the wild in June.

She was found under a horse trailer in Methow Valley following a wildfire in summer 2014. Cinder's paws were so severely burned that she wasn't even walking on them. Instead, she was pulling herself along by her elbows.

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management as well as other federal and state agencies are starting a public information campaign intended to reduce human-caused fires in sagebrush steppe areas in Idaho.

The Idaho office of the BLM in a statement Thursday says efforts will include radio and television announcements, social media postings and a billboard on Interstate 84 between the Broadway and Gowen Field off-ramps in Boise.

The agency says fire helps invasive cheatgrass take over sagebrush steppe areas and eventually outcompetes native plants.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A new rangeland fire management plan is the result of cross-state and federal collaboration that isn't often seen in resource policy. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Idaho earlier this week to present the plan alongside state officials

Bryant Olsen / Flickr

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released a plan to protect the habitat of a struggling bird species from being destroyed by wildfire.

The new firefighting strategy comes as Western states work to avoid the sage grouse's classification as a threatened or endangered species. Experts say the restrictions that come with protecting the wide-ranging birds could damage the economies of the 11 states where they are found.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide Endangered Species Act protections this fall.

 A couple of unseasonably large wildfires in the Northwest are giving crews an early taste of fire season.

United States Forest Service, Mike McMillan / Flickr Creative Commons

A recent report published by the U.S. Forest Service shows that in 1995, 17 percent of the agency's budget went to fighting wildfires. By 2014, those efforts took up 51 percent of the agency's funding.

Aaron Maizlish / Flickr

Federal officials have announced more than $4 million in projects in four states as part of a wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide swath of intermountain West sagebrush country that supports cattle ranching and is home to a struggling bird species.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will use the money in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon to counter wildfire threats, invasive grasses and juniper trees encroaching in sagebrush habitat.

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