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Ranchers spring into action to fight wildfires, as part of new protective associations

Groups of ranchers are springing into action when wildfires hit, the Times-News reports, as part of Gov. Butch Otter's initiative this year to invest $400,000 from the state to help form and train additional rangeland fire protection associations across the state. Members who volunteer take online and hands-on training with the BLM and are given radios and permission to respond to wildfires on public lands. The Times-News reports that last Friday, members of the Saylor Creek Rangeland Fire Protection Association were on the watch when lightning struck grazing land an hour away from the nearest fire engine, and they successfully dug a fire line using a tractor and disc and stopped the blaze from growing. Click below for a full report from the Times-News via the AP.

The state funding came along with new requirements for the groups, including state review of their structures, training and liability insurance. Idaho has long had timber protective associations; it got its first rangeland one in 2012 at Mountain Home. The Saylor Creek, Owyhee and Three Creek rangeland fire protection associations formed in early 2013, and the state's anticipating another three or four may be formed by next year, in areas including Owyhee County, Twin Falls/Cassia County, Lincoln County, Custer/Lemhi County and Washington/Adams County.


Ranchers serve as first responders to wildfires

GLENNS FERRY, Idaho (AP) — Some ranchers in southern Idaho are receiving training to serve as first responders to area wildfires.

The Times-News (http://bit.ly/1anGula ) reports that groups like the Saylor Creek Rangeland Fire Protection Association are springing up around the region, made up of ranchers who perform initial wildfire suppression efforts on public lands.

“We make it a practice to have somebody out watching,” said John Solosabal, a member of the Saylor Creek association. “Last Friday, it was my turn. We had a lot of lightning, and all of a sudden smoke showed up.”

Solosabal contacted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and then began rounding up association members for help. He knew the nearest firefighter engine was almost an hour from his ranch, but the group was able to use a tractor and disc to dig a fire line and keep the surrounding grazing land from going up in smoke.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter approved a $400,000 appropriation earlier this year to help form and train the rangeland fire protection associations across the state. Members take online and hands-on training with the BLM and are given radios and permission to respond to wildfires on public lands.

“It's nice to have a radio and let them (BLM) know if a fire is more than we can handle,” Solosabal said. “Maybe if we need an airdrop, we can communicate that need. It's a very good thing. Now we have coordination.”

BLM spokesman Josh Olson said last Friday's fire remained small because Solosabal and his group were able to respond within the first 10 minutes.

“The fire didn't get very big,” Olsen said. “Which is a good thing. That's what these groups are designed to do.”

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Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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