IDL Receives Grant for Roadside Fuel Breaks in Clark County

Wednesday April 12, 2023

It is not uncommon to see a fire along busy roads and highways during fire season. Often fires can be caused by dragging safety chains on trailers, blown tires, and hot exhaust from vehicles that pull to the side of the road, parking on dry, fine fuels. This creates a wildfire hazard that can threaten communities in the Wildland Urban Interface.

Clark County has regular fire occurrences along roadways and the goal of the project is to support firefighting efforts to minimize the number of acres burned by compartmentalizing the landscape.

Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) applied for a grant through the federal Community Wildfire Defense Grant program to assist with roadside fuel breaks in Clark County. A $690,000 grant was awarded in March and will allow IDL and its partners to create right-of-way fuel breaks for approximately 53 miles, helping to decrease the threat of wildfire and protect about 700 homes and structures in Dubois, Kilgore, Spencer, and Medicine Lodge.

IDL has been working with the Clark County Office of Emergency Management for about two years to complete an updated county wildfire preparedness plan. Through this process one of the projects identified was the expansion of the roadside mowing. A regional mowing effort was started in the county five years ago, but by applying for these funds the project can stretch farther and cover much of the remaining acres in the eastern half of the county that falls within the state or private ownership. This effort will work in conjunction with similar federal fuel break projects in the area.

“We are seeing an increasing number of community evacuations occurring in Clark County due to wildfire,” said Tyre Holfeltz, IDL’s wildfire risk mitigation program manager. “If responders are able to catch fires more quickly due to the roadside fuel breaks it will significantly reduce the impact.”

The wildfires not only create a threat to communities, but due to the size and severity of fires in the upper snake river plain, they affect wildlife habitat especially for sage-grouse.

“Wildfires in Clark County also significantly affects local livestock producers,” added Holfeltz. “Wildfires destroy the forage, limiting the locations livestock may graze, sometimes for several years.”

IDL’s partners for this project include the Clark County Office of Emergency Management, Clark County Soil & Water Conservation District, Idaho Transportation Department, and Idaho Fish and Game.

The roadside fuel breaks grant work is intended to start this summer with the majority to be completed in 2024