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BLM: We may have above-normal fire season in eastern Idaho

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Aerial view of the 2012 Charlotte Fire near Pocatello. | Courtesy BLM

IDAHO FALLS — Wildland firefighters are preparing for what should be another busy fire season in eastern Idaho.

Idaho Falls District BLM Fire Information Officer Kelsey Griffee said on average, 140 fires burn a year in the area. This year, there have already been five fires in eastern Idaho, and Griffee said it usually starts to pick up around June.

Fire season usually lasts well through September and, depending on the year, can run into October.

“This year, the weather for our area — what they’re saying is that it’s going to look like we’ll have above-normal temperatures, so we’ll see a hotter summer and then we’re going to have below-normal precipitation,” Griffee told EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s going to be normal, but we have the potential for (the fire season) to be above normal.”

The Idaho Falls District is divided into four geographic areas/field offices: Challis, Salmon, Upper Snake and Pocatello.

Last year, fire numbers were below normal not only nationwide, but also in the Idaho Falls District, Griffee said. She said there were 87 wildfires, and almost 140,000 acres burned in eastern Idaho in 2019.

The Sheep Fire that took place at the Idaho National Laboratory was responsible for 112,000 of those acres.

“Because we had that below-normal fire season last year, we actually have a lot of fuel, so vegetation like grass that is carried over from last season that did not burn, that is still available for fire consumption this year,” Griffee said. “So that could add to the fuel loading and potential fire behavior this season.”

Historically in eastern Idaho, fires have usually been 50% lightning-caused and 50% human-caused, Griffee said. But in the past few years, human-caused fires have pushed their way up towards 60%.

With COVID-19, Griffee said it’s hard to determine if people are going to stay home or flock to public lands because they want to be outside.

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The BLM is asking citizens to prepare for the season.

“Take individual responsibility to reduce flammable material around homes and communities before a fire occurs to keep your families, property, pets, livestock and firefighters safe,” Fire Management Officer Joel Gosswiller said in a news release.

To maintain a low-ignition landscape around your home, the BLM says to move firewood away from structures, keep grass cut and watered, and trees pruned, limbed and away from structures.

They also suggest removing all leaves and debris from roofs and gutters, as well as under decks, stairways and overhangs. Plants should also be kept low to the ground, green and healthy near your home.

“We really want people to be doing their part for preventing wildfires,” Griffee said. “One less fire is always better for us. We are busy enough between lightning fires, and so one less human-caused fire helps us immensely in our response.”

The BLM also wants people to be aware that the 2020 Fire Prevention Order is currently in effect. Specific fire-related activities on public land are prohibited from May 10 to Oct. 20. During this time, fireworks, steel core ammunition, tracer ammunition, incendiary ammunition and exploding targets are prohibited on BLM lands.

For more information, click here.

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