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Idaho’s firefighting season bills come to $17 million

September 19, 2018

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The state of Idaho’s bills for this year’s wildfire season has come in at about $17 million, in line with averages from recent years.

The Idaho Press reports the total expenditures from firefighting on state-protected lands this year came to more than $21 million, but more than $4 million of that is reimbursable from other agencies. The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set aside $20 million earlier this year to cover the state’s firefighting season costs.

Acting state Lands Department Director David Groeschl told members of the Land Board on Tuesday that moderate weather in September with more moisture weakened the state’s fire conditions, and restrictions on campfires and some other activity on state lands are being lifted this week. Fire crews have a solid handle on the remaining wildfires on state land, he said.

“All are contained, thankfully controlled, and most of them are out,” Groeschl said. “We have no active project fires at this time.”

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, who chairs the Land Board, noted that the number of human-caused fires continues to grow. This year 183 of the 236 total fires on state-protected land were caused by humans and the rest were started by lightning. That compares to 132 human-caused fires last year and 111 in 2016.

“Are we not doing a good enough job of alerting folks when they go into the forest, ‘Be careful, don’t start a fire’?” Otter asked.

Groeschl said Idaho Department of Land has been looking at how to beef up its fire prevention messaging. It recently sent a warning notice to alert hunters that as they head into the woods this fall, fire danger remains.

“Even though there are no restrictions,” he said, hunters are being asked “to make sure their warming and cooking fires are out before they leave. We still have the threat of fire; we have not had a season-ending event.” That typically would be a major, drenching rainstorm or significant snowfall.

Four significant wildfires are burning in Idaho outside of the Idaho Department of Lands protection areas. Those include the Indian Butte Fire burning on about 17.5 square miles (28 square kilometers) near Dubois, the Wapati Fire burning on about 7 miles (11 kilometers) near Stanley, the Sharps Fire burning on more than 100 square miles (161 kilometers) near Bellevue and the Grassy Ridge Fire burning on about 150 square miles (241 kilometers), also near Dubois.

The Grassy Ridge fire is fully contained and the Sharps Fire is nearly contained, according to a report Groeschl presented to the board. The Wapati Fire is at 85 percent containment and the Indian Butte Fire is about 20 percent contained.

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Information from: Idaho Press, http://www.idahopress.com

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