As temperatures creep up and isolated thunderstorms hit the mountains, Idaho's wildfire season is just around the corner. From air quality concerns to evacuations, wildfires impact pretty much everyone.
We've rounded up some resources to make sure you're prepared:
- Wildfires in the West right now
- Fire Risk Index
- Outlook maps
- Air quality monitoring
- Power outages
- How to protect your home
- Evacuation tips
- Additional resources
A new interactive map by the Western Fire Chiefs Association aims to provide the latest information on wildfires in the west. The map shows fires on state and federal land, but the creators hope to fill in gaps by pulling data from 911 dispatch via PulsePoint.
In some rural areas prone to wildfires internet connections can be weak, so they prioritized a map that could load quickly. It can help people know when to evacuate an area or check up on livestock.
Fire Risk Index
The Fire Risk Index compares an area's relative fire risk with that of the entire United States. When assigning the score, FEMA considers three factors:
- Wildfire exposure quantifies a community's building value and population who are at risk of experiencing a wildfire
- Wildfire annualized frequency estimates the number of wildfires that will take place in the community per year
- Historic loss ratio projects the percentage of buildings or population that is expected to be lost in a wildfire
National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlooks
The National Interagency Fire Center published its Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook maps below to show cumulative wildfire forecasts for June, July, August and September of 2023.
Air quality monitoring
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has compiled information on smoke and air quality on its website. Those include:
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is the United States Environmental Protection Agency's index for reporting air quality. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and health concern.
The AQI is divided into six categories and each category corresponds to a different level of health concern.
Wildfires can sometimes cause power outages before or during the threat of fire. Preparation ahead of these emergencies helps prioritize safety during an outage in the heat of summer.
Idaho Power suggests putting together a Summer Outage Kit in case you lose power. Here's what they recommend you put in your kit:
- Bottled water (five gallons per person)
- Non-perishable food (canned food, crackers, etc.)
- Non-electric can opener
- Baby food or formula and diapers
- Pet food
- First aid kit
- Prescription medications
- Battery- or solar-powered chargers for your devices
- Battery-powered radio and clock, flashlight and fans
- Extra batteries
- A block of ice in the freezer
How to protect your home
In 2021, the United States had 58,985 wildfires, resulting in a total of 3,577 homes being destroyed, according to data from the National Interagency Coordination Center.
Wildfires are often uncontrolled and dangerous, and for a homeowner in a high-risk area, it’s easy to feel helpless in protecting their property. However, homeowners can take action by taking a few safety measures:
If you're still unsure about protecting your home, you can get a free wildfire home safety evaluation from your local fire officials.
How to prepare for evacuation
On average, Idaho's populated areas have a greater wildfire risk than 94% of states in the U.S.
When it comes to evacuations during the threat of wildfire, that puts the emphasis on leaving early to avoid congestion and free up roadways for fire crews and personnel.
Here are some tips for evacuation:
- Have an evacuation bag ready to go
- Shut all windows and doors
- Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters
- Move flammable furniture away from windows and doors
- Shut off gas at the meter
- Leave your interior and exterior lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions
- Shut off the air conditioning
- Gather flammable items outside and bring them inside or place them in a pool if you have one
- Turn off propane tanks
- Move propane appliances away from your home
- Connect garden hoses to outside water valves for fighters to use
- Don't leave sprinklers on or water running, they can affect water pressure
- Find your pets and keep them nearby
- Prepare farm animals for transport and think about moving them to a safe location early
We also pulled together these key resources where you can find up-to-date information about wildfires.
- Sign up for the Idaho State Alert and Warning System
- Here's a handy glossary of firefighting terms
- Idaho Fire Information has details from the Bureau of Land Management
- InciWeb updates fire information around the country, giving handy info about road closures during the summer travel season.
- The Idaho Department of Lands' site will update Idahoans about fire restrictions on public land.
- The National Interagency Fire Center coordinates fire management teams around the country, and is based in Boise.
New research shows that “beaver-modified riverscapes” are very resilient to the effects of large wildfires. After burns, the refuge they provide to flora and fauna can also aid in post-fire recovery. That’s why the researchers involved argue that beavers “can be part of a comprehensive fire-mitigation strategy.”
Sixteen buildings on the reservation are anticipated to receive upgrades and better air filtration to keep smoke particles out.
It made national headlines in October 2022 when Forest Service burn boss Ricky Snodgrass was arrested while overseeing a prescribed fire in rural Oregon. Now, a year and a half later, Snodgrass has been indicted on a misdemeanor reckless burning charge. The union he’s a member of is hopeful that he won’t be found guilty, but a representative says the case has still had impacts.
2023 was a strange fire season. It was both the slowest in the US in a quarter century, but also saw one of the deadliest blazes in the country’s history in Hawaii. Unprecedented wildfires in Canada also blanketed much of America in smoke for weeks.
In recent years, there have been a number of wildfires that resulted in the loss of numerous structures, and in some cases many lives. A new paper argues that thinking about these incidents as “wildfires that involved houses” has a lot of counterproductive policy implications.
While many aren’t aware of the risks, flooding is a major concern in the wake of wildfires. But because most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, residents near recent burns can be vulnerable to major, uncovered losses.
For now a third time, Congress has extended temporary pay increases for federal wildland firefighters with a continuing resolution. This time they go through just early March.
Laura Daniel-Davis, the acting deputy secretary of the Interior Department, made the announcement at NIFC in Boise.
New research shows that wildfires can leave behind concerning levels of the carcinogenic chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). But researchers also looked at ways that homeowners can clean their properties after wildfires to substantially reduce the risk presented by PAHs.
Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior Laura Daniel-Davis said Tuesday the Biden administration was giving $138 million to Idaho and other states to protect against wildfires. Idaho Matters takes a look at how this money will be spent.