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2020 smokejumpers training with a new plane in Boise

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Meeting Idaho’s Wildfire Challenges

National Interagency Fire Center serves as a hub for the nation’s fire defense strategy and resource management here in Boise

Article by Chelsea Chambers

Photography by National Interagency Fire + BLM

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

Idaho is no stranger to wildfires, and unfortunately the state is becoming more familiar as the years go by. Fire activity now starts earlier in the spring and lasts longer into the fall, putting a massive strain on resources and wreaking havoc on the land.

Fortunately, there are hundreds of brilliant minds and a group of agencies and land managers working together to solve this problem. One such agency is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“The BLM is a leader in the nation’s management of wildland fire and carries out a broad range of actions to protect the public, natural landscapes, wildlife habitat, recreational areas, and other values and resources,” shares Samantha Storms, Deputy Chief of External Affairs for BLM Fire and the National Interagency Fire Center.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, located primarily in 12 western states and Alaska. Their mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

"As the largest and most complex fire program within the Department of the Interior, the BLM has some of the very best when it comes to wildland fire," says Grant Beebe, BLM Fire Director.

Alongside the BLM, several other agencies including the Forest Service, the National Weather Service, and the Department of Defense have come together to create the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), which now serves as a hub for the nation’s fire defense strategy and resource management. Just adjacent to the Boise Airport lies 55 acres of equipment, aircraft tanker operations, and more—all dedicated to the problem of fighting wildland fires, and other natural disasters.

NIFC was established in 1965 in an effort to prevent the duplication of work and resources of various land managers. Agencies like the Forest Service and the National Park Service quickly began to realize that wildland fire management was a problem they shared. NIFC was created as a platform to cut costs, communicate ideas, and bring together resources to fight a mutual enemy: wildland fires and other natural disasters.

“At NIFC, we support many different kinds of emergency responses, including floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, riots, terrorist attacks (9/11 and Oklahoma City bombing), and radios to Haiti,” says Storms. “However, our primary focus is on wildland firefighting. The agencies that are represented here share firefighting supplies, equipment, and personnel, which helps ensure efficient and cost-effective incident management.”

Storms continues, “The partner agencies at NIFC do remarkable work. It’s far more than a collection of federal buildings. It is the epitome of interagency cooperation and collaboration. It’s the energy of nearly 600 employees, representing eight separate federal and state agencies, engaged in multiple aspects of the same mission: to develop national wildland fire policy and lead in its implementation; and to serve as the logistical and support center for the nation’s wildland fires and, at times, other national disasters and emergencies.”

As demand for more wildland firefighters continues to surge, NIFC and its partners are placing a greater emphasis on employee wellbeing. Agencies are shifting to full-time positions for firefighters, rather than seasonal jobs, in hopes to retain employment. They are also focusing on increased pay and upward mobility, as well as offering an abundance of mental health resources.

"After 17 years working as a BLM firefighter, I can honestly say that I have met and worked with some of the most incredible people. BLM Fire has taken me all across the country and even as far as Australia," says Brian Holmes, Idaho native and Engine Captain for the BLM Idaho Boise District. "It's no secret that wildfires are on everyone's mind this time of year.”

In anticipation of the 2022 fire year, the BLM and other land managers have been taking proactive measures to hopefully alleviate some of the burden of wildfires. One of their primary initiatives has been to reduce vegetation buildup and to educate communities on how they can best manage their land to prevent fires from spreading.

While we may take solace and a sense of pride knowing that the nation’s firefighting hub is located in our very own capital city, it is still important that we each do our part to protect our state’s beautiful natural resources. On average, more than 85% of wildfires are human-caused, which means that more than 85% of wildfires are preventable. Always practice responsible recreation. Make sure your fires are completely out. Never use fireworks near dry grasses, and don’t throw cigarette butts out of car windows.

“The 2022 fire year won't be without its share of challenges, but we are proud of our wildland firefighting personnel and the way they respond to wildland fires on public lands,” Storms concludes.

To learn more about the BLM and NIFC, visit

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  • Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area
  • Seedlings and wildfire restoration