Partnership between ITD and BLM reduces fires in southwest Idaho

Recognizing the high cost and impact of fires in Idaho, the Idaho Transportation Department and the Bureau of Land Management are continuing their partnership to reduce fire starts along Interstate 84 in southwest Idaho.

A highly fire-prone stretch of I-84, between Boise and Mountain Home, saw a decrease in number of fires that ignited either on, or near ITD's right-of-way in 2015. According to BLM data, six fires started along the freeway in 2015, down from a peak of 18 in 2006. The steady decrease is attributed to enhanced maintenance operations along the corridor; prior to, and during, fire season.

Maintenance includes mowing by ITD crews, both along the freeway, and also its medians. Additionally, ITD coordinates with the BLM to "disc" a fire line within the right of way. Discing (similar to tilling) helps reduce potential fire fuels, including tumbleweed and sage brush that easily ignite.

Earlier this year, through a grant with the BLM, ITD was able to purchase two new pieces of equipment to assist with mowing and clearing the right of way of fuels and other hazards. ITD worked closely with the BLM to secure another $50,000 grant to purchase additional tractor equipment to further expand fire mitigation efforts.

"Anytime a fire ignites and closes the interstate, it affects the traveling public's safety and mobility," said Michael Garz, ITD District 3 maintenance engineer. "ITD's partnership with the BLM in this region is not only beneficial to ensuring each agency meets its strategic mission, but also keeps traffic moving and our citizens safe."

"We really appreciate ITD's help in mitigating fire occurrences along these transportation corridors," said BLM Prescribed Fire and Fuels Specialist Christopher Cromwell.

Published 11-20-15