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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.

Fire Burns Through Heart Of South Central Idaho Ski Resort

U.S. Forest Service
Soldier Mountain Ski Area is seen from the air on Aug. 9, 2020, as firefighters work to contain the Phillips Creek Fire.

The Phillips Creek fire began on August 5 with a lightning strike north of Fairfield. It grew to more than 2,000 acres and was 100% contained on August 12. But last weekend, when flames were still roaming, the fire tore right through Soldier Mountain Ski Area.



Soldier Mountain was set to unveil a new mountain bike trail system over the weekend, when the fire put the opening to a halt. 

On Friday morning, the fire moved in toward the ski resort, and people on the property were evacuated before the main access bridge burned later that day.


“It looks like a lunar landscape," said Soldier Mountain's new general manager Paul Alden. "It’s very discouraging — that beautiful mountain with the aspen groves we had installed the bike trails in are gone.”

Credit U.S. Forest Service
Forest Service, BLM and local firefighters were able to save a number of structures in the Soldier Creek drainage during the early days of the Phillips Creek Fire.

Alden was brought in by the ski area's new owner, Ascent Ventures, a company based in Lehi, Utah. The sale from previous owners Diane and Matt McFerran went through last Thursday, one day before the fire made its way to the resort.  

The team is still in a state of shock, Alden said. The ski lodge is intact, but the fire came right up to its porch -- along with several other structures and houses, it was "heroically" saved by the firefighters, he said.

The magic carpet on the bunny hill, however, melted, and snow-making equipment that hadn't been in use recently was destroyed. The big task ahead is brining in inspectors to make sure the ski lifts are still structurally sound.

Alden said the new owners will keep working toward their vision of the resort once owned by actor Bruce Willis.

“It’s just a gem waiting to be taken out of its velvet-lined box," he said.

The McFerrans, who bought the resort in 2015 and put it up for sale a couple years ago, will stay involved with Soldier's operations -- Matt as the mountain manager and Diane as the base lodge manager.


Though mountain biking won't open at Soldier Mountain this summer, future plans for the ski area include constructing lodging and implementing snow-making machines. Soldier finished its season in early March after a winter of record low snowfall in the surrounding mountains, before the pandemic closed down nearly every other resort.


Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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