Regional wildfires put strain on crews fighting Bearskin Fire

Crews working the Bearskin Fire near Deadwood Reservoir are battling not only flames, but a staffing shortage as well.

LOWMAN - With nearly 60 major wildfires raging across the West, fire crews are stretched thin, and managers are hoping to avoid any new fire starts.

From the weather to the rugged terrain, crews battling the Bearskin fire, which is 21 miles north of Lowman, are fighting more than the flames that have already burned 19,000 acres.

"Overall it's been steadily moving in all four directions," said Jake Stohmeyer with the Boise National Forest.

The fire is still growing, and with only 120 firefighters working on this fire, Stohmeyer says they are extremely tight on personnel.

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"You could have upwards of eight or nine hundred people on a fire this size," Stohmeyer said. "We're at preparedness level 5 in the country, it's the highest level of preparedness."

Stohmeyer says that doesn't happen often, and that the last time the fire season was this active it was back in 2015.   

"We plan on an average fire year every year and do the best we can to move resources around nationally to help in the areas that are more impacted," he said.

The problem this year is that there are so many fires, and there aren't enough resources to go around. 

"Most of the firefighters have experienced this before and they know we're just doing the best we can with what we've got," said Strohmeyer.

Now it's more important than ever that everyone obeys the stage one fire restrictions across the Boise National Forest, state, and Bureau of Land Management lands to prevent another fire from starting.

"We prioritize new starts," said Strohmeyer. "We'd end up having to pull resources off this fire to deal with any new starts which would just allow the situation to get worse."

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Strohmeyer says they'd only be able to pull 20 to 30 people from the Bearskin fire to go fight a new one. 

"We could work with neighboring resources but they're really busy too so it would be very difficult to get the resources to deal with a new fire," he said.

Another reason there are only 120 firefighters working on this fire is because there aren't any homes threatened so resources are focusing on other regional fires.

 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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