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Idaho Fire Officials See Potentially Catastrophic Fire Season Ahead

Fire officials in Idaho and the Rocky Mountain region are sounding the alarm of a potentially historic fire season.

Idaho Department of Lands Fire Management Chief Josh Harvey said the state has responded to 202 fires so far this season. Over the last 20 years, the agency has responded to 80 fires on average by this point in the fire season. Those numbers do not include fires on federally managed lands in Idaho, a spokesperson confirmed.

Heavy fuels and extremely dry conditions are creating fires that are difficult to suppress.

"Many of these indicators reflect conditions that we would normally see in mid or late August, not only for Idaho, but across the west," Harvey said Tuesday.

Gov. Brad Little urged citizens to act responsibly outdoors and not participate in any activities which could spark a fire. Many areas of the state are currently under stage I or II restrictions, and more widespread fire restrictions are likely to be implemented in Idaho soon.

Tuesday, the state announced a new fire restrictions website with maps and information about what is and isn't allowed, such as whether campfires or camping stoves can be used.

Idaho Army National Guard members deployed for fire support last week by the governor will primarily assist with logistical support, Little said. He added that Guard members have already helped fill a shortage of supply staff in Coeur D'Alene.

Fire officials are concerned about a potential for air fuel shortages, a supply pinch that has already happened at tanker bases in Utah and Oregon, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Grant Beebe is Assistant Director for Fire and Aviation at NIFC. He says the agency has shifted some equipment around to ensure planes and available fuel are in the same place.

"There are limits to what we can do since the supply chain issues really relate to shortage of truck drivers and a shortage of people to actually pump fuel into aircraft," Beebe said.

Planes in Boise don't rely on tankers to deliver fuel, but equipment stationed in places such as Vale, Oregon, may have to come to Boise for fuel, he said.

Gov. Little said he would take whatever steps he could to get fuel to the right places.

"We'll do waivers, we'll do everything else, because we don't have that many aircraft. And if we have to move aircraft where the fuel is, that's less time they have to be out doing what they need to be doing — and that's keeping firefighters and communities safe."

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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