Publication Date July 12, 2016

Fire behavior gets scarier as climate gets hotter and drier

Boise National Forest
Photo: Idaho Statesman

Before the rain and cooler weather came to southwest Idaho last weekend, firefighters on the Buck Fire on the Boise National Forest were reporting behavior they didn't expect for early July including fire burning hot against the wind.


Susan Blake, the Boise Forest’s spokeswoman, said that while the 2.6 million acre national forest that covers much of the upper Boise River watershed and parts of the Payette and Salmon watersheds has small fires early, they don’t usually call in national management teams until the end of July.

“This fire has exhibited interesting behavior, such as having winds coming from the southwest and the fire not being push to the northeast,” Blake said. “If anything, it’s moved slightly into the wind.”

One view many in Idaho carry is that this behavior is due to the heavy fuels in the forest from a century of fire suppression and a lack of logging for the last 25 years. But in 2015’s record year only about 10 percent of the fires nationally burned in dense forest. Most were in sagebrush-steppe, grasslands and brush country.

The recognition that the fire we face in the West is unprecedented is growing