Letters From the West

Fire potential is turning up in Idaho’s rangeland

Pat Christensen, left, and his wife Cyndie sit on the steps of the Featherville Cafe Saturday Aug. 18, 2012 as smoke from Trinity Ridge fire engulfs the area. (Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman file)

Pat Christensen, left, and his wife Cyndie sit on the steps of the Featherville Cafe Saturday Aug. 18, 2012 as smoke from Trinity Ridge fire engulfs the area. (Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman file)

The cool temperatures and recent rain kept fire danger in southern Idaho below normal for the last month and going into June.

Usually the grasses and other desert plants are dry and brown by now, making the rangelands burn on a spark or a hot muffler, let alone an explosive target.

“We’re still in green-up,” said Ed Delgado, manager of the Predictive Services unit at the National Interagency Fire Center. “It’s been awfully quiet.”

But now the vegetation is beginning to dry out and becoming fuel. That means fire season has moved back into the normal range for June and so we can expect action to pick up.

Meanwhile, Delgado’s team predicted higher than normal fire danger in California and New Mexico and guess what: It’s burning.

So when he predicts higher than normal fire potential for July and August for Idaho, people should listen. If you haven’t cleared out fuel from around your forest or range home or cabin yet it might be good time to start.

If you haven’t created defensible space for firefighters to work this also is as good a time as any. Read the NIFC Predictive Services entire report.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West