BOISE -- One of Idaho’s largest wildland fires this past summer may have been prevented, at least that is what fire experts with the Bureau of Land Management Boise District are standing by.
The Pony Fire smoldered in Elmore County for awhile after being sparked by lighting on August 8, 2013. It jumped the Mayfield Road and not long after it was a full blown threat to the town of Prairie.
At an open house meeting Tuesday night, BLM Boise District Fire Mitigation Specialist Lance Okeson pointed to a map and suggested how a fuel break could have stopped the 150,000 acre Pony fire from getting so large, so fast.
“It jumped the road and it took out this country right here,” Okeson showed us. “This much of this fire is from that ignition right there.”
He outlined a proposed plan known as the paradigm.
The paradigm is a 400,000 acre area from Boise to Glenns Ferry which will extend both north and south of Interstate 84 where new vegetation called forage kochia would be planted.
“These fuel breaks are all going to be associated with roads, which is naturally where we firefighters access fires and catch bigger fires,” explained Okeson.
The fire situation is severe for Idaho.
The BLM Boise District covers close to 4 million acres, and in the last 10 years, BLM reports an average of 66,303 acres has burned, which is an average off 99 fires. Of those fires 68 percent were human caused and 32 percent were natural starts.
In the 2013 fire season, 168,250 acres burned, with a total 117 fires, of those fires 52 percent were human caused and 48 percent were natural starts.
Simply put, Okeson said all those numbers are cause for concern, “This is step one. We have to get control of the fire situation."
University of Idaho professor of agricultural economics Neil Rimbey was also attending the meeting and agreed that the time to act is now.
“(The) influx of Cheat Grass and Medusa Head into those areas which, contributes to the repeated fire danger is amazing and we have got to end that,” Rimbey said.
Rimbey also said this plan, if approved, can’t happen in one year and that it’s a long term goal that must be reached.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), BLM has analyzed a range of alternatives and is seeking public review and comment regarding the analysis of effects to the human environment. Comments from the public should be received by BLM by February 24, 2014.
The draft may be accessed on the BLM website at the following location: here