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Featured Professional: Brian Shiplett, 2007 Fire Season

Brian Shiplett, Chief, Bureau of Fire Management
Idaho Department of Lands
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

2007 Fire Season

The 2007 fire season on State protected (state and private) forest lands got off to an early start. On June 30 a lightning strike on the Snake river started the Dry Creek Fire which rapidly spread beyond the protection districts ability to manage and a Type II Incident Management Team had to be ordered. 5000 acres later, the team had built fire line from the Salmon River to the Snake River and controlled the fire.

Dry Creek was the first time in memory that an Incident Management team was ordered in June for a state protection district. With below normal spring precipitation, we were expecting a busy fire season, but even in a bad year fire problems generally wait until after the 4th of July!

Dry Creek was no sooner put into patrol status when a lightning storm on the 13th of July started three fires on the Snake that rapidly burned together to become the Chimney Complex. Once again a Type II team was ordered to provide management. The fire burned over 50,000 acres and forced the evacuation of the communities of Waha and Redbird. Fortunately, no homes were lost.

The night of July 18th yet another lightning storm on the Snake, and another large fire, Poe Cabin. By morning it was burning on State protection and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Protection, and threatening Nez Perce National Forest Lands. Due to the complexities of multiple jurisdiction, a Type I Incident Management Team was ordered. As the team was being briefed in Grangeville, the fire spotted across the hydrologic divide into the Salmon River and grew rapidly. A number of homes were threatened in Deer Creek, and one outfitter lost all of his ranch buildings. Before the fire was controlled on state and private lands, homeowners in Getta Creek and Twin Rivers Subdivision had to be evacuated. The fire has burned over 57,000 acres (on all ownerships) to date, and continues to burn in the rugged Seven Devils wilderness.

A fire start in logging slash southwest of St. Maries on a windy day brought us the Echo Springs Fire. Multiple homes were threatened and evacuated in and around Cherry Creek and Shay Hill, a Type II team was ordered. Before it could get in place, the team was diverted to a fire on the Bitterroot National Forest. The Northern Rockies Coordination Center said on a conference call we had “got lucky” and caught the fire. John Specht, IDL Operations and Safety Specialist, responded; “you make your own luck when you order multiple strike teams of dozers”. The fire burned 525 acres of valuable forest land, but no homes were lost.

All other fires on IDL protection have been managed by local forces. This year, to date, we have fought 239 fires, and burned 62,944 acres. Compare that to a twenty year average of 296 fires, and 8,238 acres. The record temperatures coupled with drought have taken their toll on Idaho’s State and Private forest lands this year.

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