Smoke remains as fire season lingers into fall

Contact(s): Jason Kirchner

The 2015 Fire season has been exceptional, causing a wildfire disaster this area has not seen since at least 1927, and possibly since 1910. Firefighters successfully extinguished nearly 300 wildfires throughout north Idaho so far this year, but due to extreme conditions, overwhelming numbers of simultaneous fires, and firefighter shortages across the west this year, there remain approximately a dozen fires that became established and firefighters have been unable to put them out. At this late point in the year, and due to the lack of threats to life or property posed by current fires, firefighters are implementing point protection strategies to protect critical resources instead of creating fireline around the entire perimeter of each remaining blaze. Firefighting is inherently dangerous work, and due to the lack of threats to life and property, use of a point protection strategy provides for the greatest level of safety for firefighters. Until sufficient rain or snow falls in the area, fires are likely to continue producing smoke and occasionally making small runs. In cases where ongoing fires move toward private property or other critical resources, hand crews, engines and heavy helicopters are being used to check the fire’s spread.

The 2015 fire season has been difficult for all involved, and the smoke and fire lingering into this October are a testament to the extreme nature of this year’s season. Smoke impacts from local fires are likely to continue, based on weather conditions, until sufficient rains or snow extinguish the fires. Although the use of point protection strategies for local fires provides the greatest level of safety for firefighters, at this point in the year this strategy is also the least “smoke producing” strategy available. Efforts to fully contain the perimeter of established fires would otherwise require firefighters to conduct burnout operations in many areas, which would increase smoke and result in even more acres burned.

Smoke has been most prominent in the Silver Valley and in the St. Joe River drainage. Although there is little firefighters can do to reduce the smoke until rain or snows extinguish the fires, there are steps individuals can take to reduce their exposure. For more information on wildfire smoke and decreasing your risks please visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Wildfire Smoke webpage at