It's been a tough fire season for the elite group of firefighters known as hotshots; and not because of the fires.
Hotshots are used to the hard work. They work 14 days in a row, then get three days off, then repeat the cycle over and over again until winter finally puts the nation's fires to bed. They're deployed throughout the West, never knowing where they'll be sent until the last minute. They work with their hands, using chainsaws and shovels. Sometimes, they have to work through grief, as they did this summer when a fire near Phoenix, Arizona, swallowed 19 hotshots in one gulp.
Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 4:17 pm
The same weather patterns that are making the Rim Fire a challenge for firefighters in California have been moving up through parts of the Northwest. Specifically, through central Idaho. Fire managers say the forests there are ripe for fire, and more lightning is in the forecast this week.
The fact that massive fires are raging both in California and in Idaho is no coincidence, according to Robyn Broyles. She's with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.
Hundreds of firefighters are "digging trenches, clearing brush and starting back blazes to keep a wildfire raging north of Yosemite National Park out of several mountain hamlets," The Associated Press writes Monday morning in its latest update on the huge "Rim Fire" that is threatening some of the power and water services to the city of San Francisco.
A burn ban issued by the Department of Natural Resources in late July has been partially lifted in Western Washington. Recreational fires in approved fire pits on DNR protected lands — such as state, county, municipal or other campgrounds — are now allowed west of the Cascades. Other outdoor burning is still banned in Western Washington.
The Department of Natural Resources issued an updated burn ban to include all lands protected by the DNR in Washington state. The ban will be in effect until September 30 and includes prescribed burns and campfires, even in developed campgrounds under state, local or private control.
Federal land managers have banned the use of exploding targets on public lands in the Northwest. The concern is wildfires.
Fire investigators suspect exploding targets sparked at least half a dozen wildfires in Washington and Idaho over the past year. The chemical explosives give target shooters instant feedback that they've hit their mark from long range.
Nineteen firefighters died fighting a wildfire in Arizona yesterday. The Arizona forestry department is still investigating how the crew died, but many suspect that the blaze was just too quick and unpredictable. Washington state has also lost firefighters to fast spreading wildfires in the past. In 2001, four firefighters died in the Thirty Mile Fire in the Okanogan National Forest. Ross Reynolds talks to Peter Goldmark, the Commissioner of Public Lands at the Department of Natural Resources, about how wildfires get out of control so quickly.
State officials are predicting another challenging wildfire season this year. Fighting those fires may be more difficult due to the federal sequester, which slashed nearly 8 percent from the Forest Service’s budget. Ross Reynolds interviews Washington State’s Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.
Several forest fires are already burning in Western Washington and crews are mopping up a big one in central Oregon. There were also two grass fires that burned near Middleton, Idaho just west of Boise, this past weekend.
Dry winds and above average temperatures predicted this summer and fall, have fire managers preparing for an earlier than usual season.