Douglas Forest Protective Association

The number of acres burned by wildfires across the U.S. so far this year is less than half the 10 year average.

Figures from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise show 865,030 acres have burned this year throughout the country. That’s just 44 percent of the 10-year average. The 25,096 fires are 70 percent of the average.

How Red Squirrels Could Be Changing Western Forests

Jun 23, 2014
squirrel, fire, forests
David Maher / Flickr Creative Commons

The patchy recovery of lodgepole pine trees after the 1988 Yellowstone National Park fire could be due in part to the effects of squirrels.

Research from the University of Wyoming finds red squirrels could be having an impact on how lodgepole pine forests evolve.

Hot and dry conditions are expected to create above-normal wildfire conditions in parts of the Northwest this summer. While relatively few people will have to flee the flames, many more will experience a side effect of the fires: thick, acrid smoke.

This post was updated at 2:05 p.m. on June 6.

Firefighters in central Idaho have contained an 80-acre wildfire burning about 10 miles south of Stanley and expect to have it controlled on Sunday.

Gold Fire spokeswoman Julie Thomas says crews succeeded in getting a line around the fire Friday morning despite flames moving into downed lodgepole pine.

She says three hotshot crews along with six engines and two water tenders are working within the perimeter of the fire to make sure it's out.

U.S. Forest Service Road 210 remains closed.

The U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets in northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and portions of South Dakota due to wildfire and public safety concerns.

Northern Region Forester Faye Krueger announced Tuesday the regional closure that immediately prohibits exploding targets on national forest lands.

Some target shooters use the exploding targets because they contain chemical components that mix when struck by a bullet and create a fireball.

beaver creek fire
Ashley Smith / Times-News

Scientists say the devastating wildfires scorching Southern California offer a glimpse of a warmer and more fiery future.

In the past three months, at least three different studies and reports have warned that wildfires are getting bigger, that man-made climate change is to blame, and it's only going to get worse with more fires starting earlier in the year.

The federal government is already predicting this fire season will push firefighting resources almost $500 million over budget.

Beaver Creek Fire, Wildfires
Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

The U.S. Forest Service says most of the area within a 170-square-mile wildfire that burned in central Idaho last summer will remain closed this year due to safety concerns.

The agency announced Monday that areas that burned in the Beaver Creek Fire near the resort area of Ketchum have been severely eroded.

The order closing the area applies to all human use, including mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, motorcycling and mushroom gathering.

The agency says the highest concerns include eroded trails and roads, and damaged bridges and culverts.

Some Western Republican officials say their states are missing out on revenues and opportunities to prevent wildfires because they don't have enough control over public lands.

The group on Friday included U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop and state lawmakers from Montana, Nevada and Utah.

The gathering follows an announcement last week from another group of Western officials who said it's time they manage federal lands rich in natural resources.

But critics are questioning where states will find resources to manage vast ranges.

historic photo, Cottonwood creek
Idaho Statesman, Boise Public Library

Since the devastating landslide hit the town of Oso, Wash. last month, people who live near hill slopes or mountainsides have been asking if something similar could happen to them. Though Boise has not seen the tragic loss of life the Oso slide brought, the city is no stranger to floods and mudslides near its foothills.

The Idaho Statesman / The Idaho Statesman/Boise Public Library

It was August, 1959. Boise was having one of its typical hot, dry summers. A fire had just burned 9,000 acres in the nearby foothills. Then on August 20, a huge storm system dumped heavy rain on the Treasure Valley. One inch of rain fell in an hour on the burn scar. 

The water overwhelmed the hills and washed away tons of topsoil. A Forest Service video made several years after the event, tells the story.

U.S. Forest Service

Idaho officials have filed a lawsuit against a timber company and its contractor contending they're responsible for a wildfire that killed a 20-year-old Forest Service firefighter and burned more than 300 acres in northern Idaho.

The Lewiston Tribune reports the state filed the lawsuit Monday in 2nd District Court seeking an unspecified amount in monetary damages for costs in fighting the fire.

Anne Veseth of Moscow died Aug. 12, 2012, after being struck and killed by a falling tree while fighting the Steep Corner Fire near Orofino.

InciWeb / http://www.inciweb.org/incident/3635/

It's still at least three months away, but it looks as though Idaho’s wildfire season should be fairly normal in 2014. Ed Delgado manages predictive services at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

“We’ve got good snowpack right now and assuming it melts off fairly regularly over the next couple of months, that’s going to be good for the soils especially in the mountain areas,” Delgado says. “So that’s going to kind of prolong the wet period.”

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

A coalition of Congressional Democrats and Republicans gathered in Boise Monday to tout a proposal that would change the way the federal government pays for firefighting operations in the West and beyond.   

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined Sen. Mike Crapo, R-ID, Sen. Jim Risch, R-ID, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-ID, and Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

A bipartisan effort is underway in Congress to create a new way to pay for battling wildfires that prevents the diversion of money intended to reduce the size of such fires.

Lawmakers from Oregon and Idaho met with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday to discuss the budget reform.

President Obama's proposed budget seeks a change in the long-standing method of funding the fight against the most catastrophic wildfires.

Elk Complex, wildfire
Ashley Smith / Times-News

The Bureau of Land Management has closed about 54,000 acres northeast of Mountain Home in southern Idaho to all entry until April 30 in an effort to rehabilitate areas scorched by two wildfires.

The agency tells the Idaho Statesman that the area will also be closed year-round to motorized use for up to three years.

Officials say the closures are needed to protect key sage grouse habitat and crucial winter habitat for mule deer and elk.

Fighting wildfires would be funded more like hurricane and flood response under a proposal out of the Northwest that won President Obama's endorsement.

Boise National Forest

Republican Sen. Mike Crapo says he expects wildfire funding legislation he introduced just before Christmas to get bipartisan support in Washington.

Crapo and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, introduced the legislation on December 19. If approved, it would bolster funding for the U.S. Forest Service.

At issue is the agency’s firefighting budget, which is regularly exhausted before a wildfire season ends. Funds from other parts of the agency’s budget are then used to cover additional costs. That money often comes from fire prevention budgets, which can make future fires worse.

Wildfires, Maps
Courtesy of the Idaho Water Science Center / USGS

The Beaver Creek wildfire burned 174-square-miles in August and threatened Ketchum and Hailey. After the fire, torrential rains sent mud and rocks down burned mountainsides. Debris hit homes and covered roads.

“Some of these debris flows were 20 to 30 feet thick,” recalls Dave Evetts. He’s the assistant director for hydrologic data at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Idaho Water Science Center in Boise.

wood roof, cedar shake
WSilver / Flickr Creative Commons

The Hailey City Council has voted to prohibit the use of cedar-shake shingles on rooftops in the wake of last summer's large wildfire.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports the council made the decision early last week.

The new rule exceeds the Wildland Urban Interface Code by prohibiting cedar-shake shingles entirely.

The 170-squre-mile Beaver Creek fire destroyed one home and threatened hundreds of others until it was contained in early September.