Most Have Heard of Fire Restrictions, But Few Know How They’re SetMonday August 14, 2023
Many Idahoans have heard of fire restrictions during the summertime, but how decisions to implement restrictions are made, and who makes those calls, has always been a little mysterious.
The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) hopes to make the fire restriction process more transparent.
The agency publishes Idaho’s most current fire restriction information online via its Fire Restrictions Finder webpage. The page features a GIS-enabled map so you can know what restrictions are in place anywhere in the state before you head out for weekend adventures.
You can find IDL’s Fire Restriction finder online at www.idl.idaho.gov/restrictions. Knowing before you go can help prevent human caused wildfires.
The agency also makes the current year’s Idaho Fire Restriction Plan, the source document fire managers use to make restriction decisions, available on its website. The proclamations that set restrictions in specific areas are now published online, too.
How Fire Restrictions Prevent Human-Caused Fires
Fire restrictions set reasonable limitations on the public and private landowners. The higher the fire risk, the higher the stage. With each stage, outdoor activities that could spark wildfires are increasingly limited. Restrictions reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires during unusually high fire danger and/or burning conditions, and when other prevention efforts have been exhausted.
There are two levels of fire restrictions in Idaho, Stage 1 and Stage 2.
Where do Fire Restrictions Apply
Idaho is divided into eight fire restriction areas, each of which corresponds with a wildfire dispatch area and includes designated zones within the area.
Who Sets Fire Restrictions
No one person or agency decides when to go into or out of fire restrictions. It is a decision made collaboratively by the agencies responsible for wildland fire protection within the eight dispatch areas. Key stakeholders include the Idaho Department of Lands, the Bureau of Land Management, the USDA Forest Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs/Tribal representatives.
Fire restrictions impact many facets of land use in Idaho beyond just recreation. This includes forestry operators working in timberland. Fire managers do not take decisions to set or remove restriction lightly.
What Conditions Give Rise to Fire Restrictions
The fire management experts responsible for restrictions consider many different factors, including fire danger rating, fuel moisture measurements, weather outlook, availability of firefighting resources, and whether the number of human-caused wildfires is on the rise.
When the experts determine conditions warrant imposing fire restrictions, the date and time is set for the restrictions to take effect, agencies collaborate on how to notify the public, and a proclamation is signed by the Idaho State Forester, who works for IDL. If conditions rapidly deteriorate, an area can move from no restrictions directly to Stage 2.
When conditions improve, fire managers reduce or entirely remove fire restrictions for an area.