Ridge Fire update: Earlier fire management helps current efforts
Photo: Image by Boise National Forest
Earlier fires in the Boise National Forest are now aiding firefighters working to contain the Ridge Fire, burning about 14 miles northeast of Lowman.
Since 2003, fire management officials have made decisions to not fully suppress some fires depending on their location, seasonal conditions, and values at risk. They also fully suppressed many fires, some that exceeded thousands of acres.
Those previously burned areas are now playing an important role in containing the current 5,270 acre Ridge Fire, which ignited July 17th and is now 46 percent contained.
The Ridge Fire stopped when it hit the 2011 Castro Fire, and the 2009 Eight Mile Fire, both managed as ‘Wildland Fires for Resource Benefits’. It also was stopped in its advance when it merged with the 2006 Red Mountain Fire, a full suppression fire.
When the Ridge Fire recently hit those areas, it helped firefighters by reducing the flame intensity, and buying them more time.
“The Castro and Eight Mile fires were lightning-caused and were managed to meet Forest Plan objectives to improve ecosystem health, protect resources and reduce potential for uncharacteristically intense large fires in the future,” said Bob Shindelar, Forest Fire Management Officer. “We have managed more than a dozen fires over the last decade with this type of ecological and strategic objective in mind.”
In 2009 and 2011, the forest conditions were much wetter, allowing fire officials to determine that managing, not fully suppressing, lightning-caused fires was not only feasible, but preferable.
Shindelar added those year’s wetter summer conditions set the stage to manage fires that reduced fuel [living and dead vegetation that can be ignited] which could feed a future wildfire under today’s drought situation.
“Now that the forest is in a drought condition, we are taking advantage of those management decisions,” said Shindelar. “The potential for the Ridge Fire to burn intensely was diminished and our previous actions add to the ecological mix being sought in the forests fire adapted ecosystem.”
The plan has benefited fire management in many ways including reducing exposure of firefighters to dangerous conditions, diminishing costs, and providing protection for the community of Lowman and the Highway 21 corridor.
Currently the Ridge Fire is 46% contained. Fire activity remains very low with some smoldering and burning of dead and downed debris.
The final containment of the fire will be met when the threat of spread has stopped to the northwest and northeast flanks. Large portions of the fire have been and will remained unstaffed due to the rugged terrain and accessibility to fire fighters.
The plan is to use all available natural barriers and changes in fuel conditions to contain or confine the fire.