BOISE - Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has issued a statewide disaster declaration due to wildfires, allowing Idaho National Guard troops to be mobilized to help fight fires burning across the state.
The declaration, signed late yesterday, is for the next 30 days, but notes that it could be extended. “There is an imminent threat to life and property as a result of wildfires within the state of Idaho,” the governor’s declaration states. “Dry fuels, lightning, high winds and smoke have created this perilous situation.”
Rob Feeley, public affairs officer for the Idaho state Bureau of Homeland Security, said the declaration is allowing National Guard troops and equipment to be mobilized starting today. They’re headed to the Trinity Ridge, Halstead and Mustang Complex fires in southern Idaho, including ground transportation to help move supplies and personnel, traffic control crews, and standby helicopters for medical evacuation.
“This is because the fires around Idaho are having trouble securing the resources that they need to be able to fight the fires,” Feeley said, “because there are so many fires going on across the nation, across the western United States, that some of the things they need they just can’t get, for example helicopters. Every helicopter that meets their safety inspection requirements is already contracted.”
Otter also signed a separate disaster declaration yesterday for Elmore County at that county’s request, to allow the county to receive FEMA funds for structure protection at the small mountain towns of Pine and Featherville from the Trinity Ridge fire.
The federal fire management assistance grant is for “when the situation is dire enough there are houses, businesses at risk,” Feeley said. The federal grant will pay 75 percent of the costs for structure protection there; the resources targeted on that fire now are for wildland firefighting. Several city fire departments from throughout the state of Idaho are now mobilizing and heading there to protect the towns.