Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Idaho Ranchers Prove Valuable as Wildland Firefighters

There isn't much to say about the 5-acre fire that burned on John Solosabal's property. Lightning struck, smoke rose and flames erupted. Yet the wildfire destined to spread across the dry and windy rangeland never got to its goal. That's what makes it remarkable. Solosabal is a member of the Saylor Creek RangelandFire Protection Association. Its one of several recently formed associations made up of professionally trained ranchers who are allowed to engage in initial wildfire suppression on public lands. The groups give ranchers an opportunity to keep flames to a minimum even as this year's wildfire season is expected to reach record levels. Three associations have formed in the Magic Valley, with more expected to be approved next year. Solosabal immediately contacted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to let them know flames were on the ground. He then rounded up help to get a tractor and disc out to the wildfire. The small group of ranchers used the disc to dig a line around the fire, containing the flames in one place, before BLM firefighters got to the scene. Earlier this year, Gov. C.L."Butch"Otter approved a $400,000 appropriation to help train and form rangeland fire protection associations across the state. After taking online and hands-on training with the BLM, ranchers were given radios and permission to respond to wildfires on public lands...more

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