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00000176-d8fc-dce8-adff-faff71c90000Idaho's wildfire season is here, and that means you're going to be hearing a lot of firefighting jargon to describe what's going on.We put together this list of key firefighting terms you're likely to hear in the next few months.GlossaryHotshots: A highly trained hand crew of wildland firefighters that works on the ground to contain a blaze. Crews usually operate in 20-person teams, and are sent in first to deal with the worst fire conditions on short notice. Hotshots have a high level of physical fitness. They can carry up to 50 pounds along with a chainsaw and shovel. There are more than 100 hotshot crews around the country, and the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise coordinates the crews.Hand crew: Wildland firefighters that could have different levels of training. They work on the ground with hand tools like shovels, chainsaws and axes. They dig fire lines (also called "firebreaks") to try and get the fire under control.Smokejumper: An elite firefighter that parachutes into remote wildland fires. They work to suppress and put out fires before they become a bigger problem, and can adapt to quickly changing situations. Smokejumpers have to be fit and highly trained. They carry heavy packs and protective suits and work in mountainous terrain. Idaho has three smokejumping bases in Boise, McCall and Grangeville.Fire lines or firebreaks: Usually about 10-12 feet wide, fire lines are cut with shovels and axes to contain and suppress a blaze. Hand crews -- including hotshots -- will dig lines and clear out brush so the fire will get choked off without fuel.Containment levels: The agency that manages a fire will say how "contained" a fire is. At 100 percent containment a fire isn't out. That means a complete fire line has been dug around the fire. A contained fire can quickly become out of control again with a shift in weather.Controlled fire: This is when a wildfire is considered out. Here's how the BLM office in Idaho Falls describes it: "Think of a container -- say, a mason jar. A fire is contained when it's all 'bottled in,' like in a container. The fire may still be burning, but if a distinct fire line is built around the entire perimeter so that there is no chance for the fire to escape or spot over outside the line, then the fire fighters declare the fire 'contained.' "Human caused: This means someone accidentally or intentionally caused a fire. This could be from a discarded cigarette, a embers from a campfire, or even sparks from a truck along a forested highway. As Smokey says, nine times out of 10, a wildfire is human-caused.Fire danger: This is a rating system from the U.S. Forest Service that helps predict how likely a wildfire could start in an area. It takes into account the weather forecast, terrain and personnel. "Low" means a blaze would likely not spread, while "moderate" means a fire could start but could be contained. "High" to "very high" means fires can catch and spread easily, while "extreme" means the conditions are so difficult and fast-changing that fighting the blaze directly is rare.Red flag warning: These warning are issued by regional National Weather Service offices, and help firefighting management teams understand the weather-related risks for fire starts. Drought and low humidity mixed with windy conditions usually spell a red flag warning. Burning bans sometimes come along with these warnings.Complex: Two or more larger wildfires in the same general area. A complex is managed by a unified team of firefighters.Air attack: Usually used during the initial stages of a small blaze, or as a suppression tool during large fires. Air attacks can drop fire retardant or water to help support hand and engine crews. Multi-engine or heavy air tankers, single-engine air tankers, and helicopters are the three most common types of aircraft that can be used. Multi-engine tankers carry the most retardant, while helicopters (or helitankers) can make more precise but smaller drops.Fire retardant: Also known as slurry, these USDA-approved chemicals are dropped by aircraft over wildfires that management teams believe could grow and become dangerous. It's often used to protect private property. A 2010 ruling from the U.S. District Court in Montana raised questions about its environmental effects.Incident management teams: Operating from level one through five, these teams of firefighters can be sent around the country to suppress fires. Type 1 and 2 IMT's often work on the most difficult and dangerous fires, and can include local firefighting resources.ResourcesWe also pulled together these key resources where you can find up-to-date information about wildfires.The National Interagency Fire Center coordinates fire management teams around the country, and is based in Boise. This year, NIFC predicted a higher level of fire danger in Idaho forests, while the grassland should get a bit of a break.The Bureau of Land Management's site will update Idahoans about fire restrictions on public land.InciWeb updates fire information around the country, giving handy info about road closures during the summer travel season. You'll also find maps, photos, and growth potential for a particular fire.And if you tweet, consider following these organizations and agencies for fire updates in 140 characters.

Idaho Ranchers And Feds Reach Truce On Long-Standing Battle Over Fighting Wildfires

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Jessica Robinson
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Northwest News Network

For years there's been a battle raging between Idaho ranchers and the federal government over whether ranchers should be able to fight wildfires.

Ranchers say they've always just gone out there, with their trucks and tanks of water and try to put the fires out themselves. The feds have said, leave it to the pros and don't make yourself a liability.

At times it's almost come close to blows. But now a truce has been struck that could change the way fires are fought every summer.

High costs of wildfires

The Bureau of Land Management oversees most of the thousands of acres of public land around here that ranchers depend on for grazing.

Ranchers have been grazing here for decades, and they say they've been fighting fire just as long.

All this land is growing the food that their cattle eat later in the year.

“And if it burns that means I have to go and buy $200 hay instead of foraging what the wind and rain brought us,” said Charlie Lyons is a rancher outside of Mountain Home, Idaho. “So the bottom line on the ranch, it can make a huge difference.”

Also, after a fire, ranchers generally must wait two years to graze, and some conservationists argue it should be even longer.

‘They had to get a motorcycle to catch us'

A lot of things can ignite a fire in the high desert of southwest Idaho – and Lyons said lots of things do. Summer lightning storms. A stray cigarette butt. Those can start a fire if they hit right. And then, Lyons said, there are things guaranteed to do the trick.

“I can think of fire that started out at Tipanuk. A guy tried to burn a badger out of hole with gasoline,” he recalled. “ And lit a fairly large fire.”

Lyons remembers this story well. And not just because of the creative badger extermination method that started it. This fire was one of the many times ranchers did what they weren't supposed to -- they fought it.

In this case, Lyons was one of them.

“Me and another rancher showed up on that fire and they were back there fartin' around,” he said. “They being the BLM. They were back there doing their coordinating.”

Lyons took off across the desert with the BLM in hot pursuit.

“They finally caught us,” he said. “They had to get a motorcycle to catch us.”

The BLM made them stop, but Lyons said they had used all their water anyway.

“We put out a lot of fire,” he said. “I'll guarantee you that.”

Liability and lawsuits

That was one of many fights. There were heated meetings. Confrontations between packs of ranchers and BLM agents. Sometimes with fires burning in the background.

“Then I was angry,” Lyons said. “Then I was like, the fire's going. Let's get on, let's go. That was my feeling for a lot of years was just anger.”

But now all that has changed.

“I think it was in the fall of 2011,” said Steve Acarregui, a fire management officer in the BLM's Boise District. “A local rancher called me that I know very well and he said, ‘Steve, is there a way we can stop fighting each other and start fighting fire?’ And he invited me to his house.”

The problem for the BLM was liability. A couple of court cases had put the fear of litigation into the hearts of federal fire managers. In 1995, the families of two volunteer firefighters in Idaho who died in a fire successfully sued the BLM. Then in 2001, the Thirtymile Fire in Washington killed four federal firefighters. The incident commander was charged with manslaughter and eventually sentenced for making false statements to investigators.

“That sent shock waves through the firefighting community,” Acarregui said. “And that's when folks really ramped up the movement to ask folks to leave the fireline and let the trained firefighters handle it.”

Training ended up being part of the solution. Government agencies had to get their firefighters and the ranchers who wanted to fight fires on the same page.

Legal firefighting entities

It turns out, Oregon already had experience with this. Government fire managers have had alliances with ranchers in the eastern part of the state going back to the 1960s. An Oregon law lets ranchers form their own firefighting entity.

It’s like a city fire department, but far from any city.

They're called Rangeland Fire Protective Associations. It sounds kind of bureaucratic, but here’s why it's important: These formal entities allow government agencies to sign legal agreements with the ranchers and supply them with actual firefighting equipment, such as water tenders, radios, and protective gear. As well as the training in how to use it.

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Gordon Foster has been fielding calls about these associations from not just Idaho, but Washington, Wyoming and Nevada – and he says these states see an added benefit.

“These ranchers can see a fire, can grab their equipment, and head out there and put it out when it's small,” Foster explained. “The real value is being able to get to fires quick so they don't get big.”

Idaho passed a law to allow these kinds of agreements in 2012.

Since then, Charlie Lyons and over 200 other ranchers have gone to classrooms to watch Powerpoint presentations. They memorize radio frequencies and take tests on things like what an anchor point is, what an origin is, a flank, a finger, and a pocket.

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Credit Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network
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Northwest News Network
A water tender for fighting wildfires is parked next to rancher Charlie Lyon’s barn near Mountain Home, Idaho.

“They've taught us their language, the right acronyms to speak. And how they're going to fight the fire and how we should come in on those fires,” Lyons said. “It's been a huge difference. It's been a complete 180 from where we were.”

There are now five fire protective associations in Idaho, and more in the works.

Lyons knows he can't stop all the fires. It's part of the landscape.

He has government acronyms on his mind -- like EA, environmental assessment. Another reason ranchers are out on the firelines.

They worry any of these fires could give them more bureaucratic problems -- like grazing restrictions, or threats to the habitat of endangered species.

But those are fights for another day.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network