Government Shutdown Affecting Fire Preparedness In Idaho And Across The Nation

Jan 9, 2019

Many federal employees at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise are on furlough until the partial government shutdown concludes.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Among the government entities impacted by the partial federal shutdown is the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

A call to NIFC’s spokeswoman goes to voicemail after several rings.

“Hi, this is Jessica Gardetto with the National Interagency Fire Center’s Office of External Affairs,” the recording says. “Due to a lapse in funding of the federal government budget, I am out of the office. I am not authorized to work during this time but will respond to your message when I return.”

Gardetto, like many other federal workers at NIFC, is on furlough until the shutdown ends.

Dan Smith, however, is a state employee and still at work. He’s the fire director for the National Association of State Foresters. He also serves on two national boards: the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and the National Multiagency Coordinating Group. He says a skeleton crew is maintaining operations at NIFC’s Boise campus.

“It’s really scaled down, you know, instead of having all the staff people there, there’s just a minimal number of supervisors,” Smith says.

According to the director, it’s fortunate the shutdown is happening in January, when fire activity is typically minimal. However, he says this is the time of year when preventative measures are taken to curb wildfires in the warmer months.

“There is basically little-to-no mitigation, prescribed burning going on currently on the federal side,” says Smith. “This is the time of year a lot of that does occur.”

The shutdown has gone on for nearly three weeks with no clear resolution in sight. Smith says “very limited conversations” have taken place surrounding what to do if fire activity suddenly increases.   

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