BOISE - With fire season expected to be above average this year in southwest Idaho, local fire departments say it's key they get ahead of it.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Eagle and Boise fire crews took to the skies today in a helicopter to scope out the Boise Front. They're working to improve coordination and check out on-the-ground resources from a bird's eye view.
Boise District BLM Fire Operations Specialist, Cody Kidd, says they took officials with the Eagle Fire Department on three flights and Boise on one flight, as a follow-up to last year's reconnaissance flights.
Tuesday's flights gave fire crews the opportunity to review capabilities and resources throughout the wildland-urban interface surrounding Boise and Eagle - an area BLM says is a primary hazard.
Fire crews say it's very beneficial when they know ahead of time where access, water supplies, and strategic fire staging areas are in case a fire does break out in the wildland-urban interface. That way, they're able to get a quicker response into the fire and ultimately put it out quicker.
"It's a cooperative flight with all the county cooperators; realizing that the Boise Front is one of our primary hazards in the area, urban interface type scenarios. Getting in the helicopter and having the opportunity to look at everything from the air, coordinate efforts, share information so we're more effective and efficient when a fire starts," Kidd told KTVB.
"It is useful for incident commanders to get a bird's eye view of the landscape prior to an event happening. It helps them strategically look at the landscape, think about tactical points, strategies, think about areas they could access the fire. They look at roads, they look at helicopter dip sites, look at potential areas that need mitigation," Boise Fire Department Division Chief Brad Bolen added.
As the area grows and more people and development move in, the landscape, roads, and neighborhoods change. Firefighters utilize technology when fighting fires and say it's crucial maps they reference are up-to-date.
The biggest takeaway, firefighters say, is being able to use Tuesday's flights to share information on water sources, hazards and access points. Officials say firsthand knowledge and tight cooperation between agencies was really valuable during the fast-moving Table Rock Fire in the Boise in 2016.
"I think it's a critical factor; the careful coordination that we've had - has been existing - in the last few years definitely has paid dividends on large incidents such as the Table Rock. And we're just trying to follow through and continue the effort when there is smoke not in the air," Kidd added.
"Everything looks much different from the ground level, so utilizing their technology, phones, and maps and then the aerial view kind of brings it all together," Bolen said.
"Typically in the Front, we can get there before BLM does, depending on where the fire starts. So everybody gets on the same page of where those access points are and we can get a quicker response into the fire itself," Scott Buck with the Eagle Fire Department told KTVB. "It brings us all together and we all collaborate and work together
Kidd says Boise District BLM did reconnaissance flights last year and he is hoping to make it a yearly deal, but it's dependent on funding.