The Boise National Forest encompasses over 2.5 million acres of diverse forest and grassland. Every year, the Forest fire staff manages over 100 wildland fires within those acres. In 2013, there were 134 fires on the Forest which burned almost 140,000 acres. For the 10 year period between 2004 and 2013, the average number of fires and acres was 114 fires with 74,325 acres involved. The peak year was 2007 when 346,500 acres burned, followed in 2008 when only 152 acres burned!
In accordance with interagency federal fire policy, the Boise National Forest operates under a Fire Management Plan (FMP). This plan provides direction to fire personnel so they can determine the best management response to an unplanned ignition. This includes ensuring fire fulfills its natural role in some pre-determined areas, and is fully suppressed in other areas such as the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI).
To this end, the FMP divides the Forest into three Fire Management Units (FMU) that each has unique characteristics and values-at-risk. A management response is implemented for each wildland fire, depending on the FMU. The appropriate response will safely manage wildland fires consistent with land and resource management objectives, community or economic factors and fire management direction while providing for public and firefighter safety. To read the Boise National Forest Fire Management Planand learn more about the FMUs.
The Boise National Forest occasionally uses restrictions and closures as an aid in wildland fire prevention. The National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) is one tool used to assist in determining Preparedness Levels and when campfire and smoking restrictions may be implemented. Using this tool helps fire managers identify critical times when fires can become difficult to control. Smoking and campfire restrictions limit smoking and building of open fires to designated areas. The decision to implement these restrictions is a combined effort between adjacent National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Lands and the National Weather Service. A review of operating plans, weather trends and forest conditions defines when campfire restrictions will be applied.
VIEW DOCUMENT - Keeping your campsite and campfire ring clean. Pack it in and pack it out.
Area closures are sometimes used in specific parts of the Forest due to the risk of wildfires starting, due to ongoing fire and firefighter activity, or due to dangerous conditions left by a recent fire.
The Elk Complex consisted of 3 fires; the first was started by lightning on August 8, 2013. The Complex burned over 130,000 acres around the communities of Pine and Featherville.
83 structures with 38 residences and 45 outbuildings were burned when the fire made a major run soon after ignition.
The closure order and area map for the Elk and Pony Complex of 2013 is now listed under closures on the Alerts and Noticespage.
Prescribed Fires and Smoke
In 1999, the U.S. General Accounting Office in reference to Western National Forests stated that “the most extensive and serious problem related to the health of national forests in the interior West is the over-accumulation of vegetation, which has caused an increasing number of large, intense, uncontrollable and catastrophically destructive wildfires.” These wildfires are harder to control, which puts the public and firefighters at higher risk. Fires need heat, oxygen and fuel in order to burn. Fire behavior is influenced by weather, topography and fuel. Fuel (i.e. vegetation) is the only wildfire component that can be modified by management. Fuel removal options are few…thinning, logging and prescribed burning, or a combination of these options.
Prescribed burns are sometimes conducted on the Boise National Forest toremove an excess of vegetation in areas that could become a large, intense wildland fire if ignited unintentionally, either by lightning or people. These prescribed fires are conducted within a “prescription” that defines the location, fuel moisture levels, air temperatures, wind conditions, and relative humidity levels that are appropriate for each project.
All prescribed fire activity is dependent on personnel availability, fuel conditions, weather and approval from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ).
Fire managers strive to minimize smoke impacts to the community by working closely with IDEQ as well as neighboring forests to monitor air quality. Tactics to keep smoke impacts as minimal as possible include canceling approved burns when conditions aren’t favorable, finding alternative uses for the debris in slash piles, timing daytime ignitions to allow the majority of smoke time to disperse prior to settling overnight, and burning larger sections at a time to ultimately limit the number of days smoke is in the air.
For more information about a recently completed fuels thinning project - VIEW HERE