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Human-started blazes dominate Idaho's mild fire season

Blackened soil in front of trees shows an area recently burned
Idaho Department of Lands
Idaho Department of Lands responded to a fire near Post Falls in August.

Idaho, like most of the country this year, had a relatively light wildfire season. But state officials noted one concerning trend.

206 of the 284 fires the Idaho Department of Lands responded to -- or 73% -- were started by people.

"We also have more people living near the wildland-urban interface, near endowment lands, and so we're seeing more unwanted human-caused fires," IDL Director Dustin Miller said in an end-of-year update to the Board of Land Commissioners Tuesday.

The biggest fires in Idaho this summer were on U.S. Forest Service land, such as the Hayden Fire on the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

The total number of fires that IDL responded to this year was close to normal, but the blazes didn't burn a lot of acres – only about 2,600 of the roughly 9 million IDL is responsible for, which is about 10% of the 20-year-average for acres burned.

“That's a pretty impressive feat given the kind of acreage that our folks are protecting," Miller said.

Total suppression costs, which include contracts for planes and crew-based engines, totaled $22 million. Of that, the state is expected to recoup roughly $4.7 million for helping out federal agencies and other states.

$64 million remains in the fire suppression account heading into next year. That's roughly how much Idaho spent to put out all burns in the much more active 2021 fire season.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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