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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wildfire Task Force in place for Central Idaho

 With the threat of wildfires very high in central Idaho, a group of more than 60 firefighters is assembling here to be ready to respond quickly to new starts in the area.

The Grangeville Interagency Dispatch Center initial attack task force includes firefighters from multiple federal and state agencies and a hand crew from Canada. Firefighters from the Nez Perce Tribe will join the task force, if needed.

“If we get a fire start in the Clearwater, Snake or Salmon River canyons, it will grow rapidly in our current fuel conditions,” said Roger Staats, Assistant Fire Management Officer for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. “With the increasing fire activity across the West, it will be tougher to get resources as needed, so that’s why we’re pre-positioning these folks.”

The task force was assembled under the Northwest Wildland Fire Protection Agreement, a cooperative plan that allows member agencies in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and five western Canadian provinces and territories to request assistance with pre-suppression and suppression of wildfires. 

Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service, Idaho Department of Lands, the Bureau of Land Management and the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association have been joined in Kamiah by a 20-person Canadian Type 1 hand crew, the equivalent of a U.S. hotshot crew. 

Under the agreement, U.S. member agencies sent firefighters to help fight fires in Canada this season and in previous years.

The interagency task force is currently working to ready their vehicles and equipment, so they are prepared to quickly launch an attack when new wildfire starts are spotted. 

The Canadian crew underwent a day-long in-briefing to orient them to any differences in U.S. firefighting techniques. The crew was issued the standard fire shelters carried by all U.S. firefighters. Canadians don't normally carry the heat-resistant, tent-like emergency safety devices that firefighters deploy as a last resort when trapped by wildfires.

Last year, a similar interagency task force successfully suppressed several wildfires in the area handled by the Grangeville Interagency Dispatch Center.