Forest-dwelling communities in the West must do a better job at making their homes resistant to wildfires so that wildland firefighters can better defend those homes and surrounding forests, federal, state and local officials said at a meeting today in Boise. That's one lesson learned following one of Idaho's worst fire seasons with more than 1,300 fires and about 1,200 square miles burned, the AP reports. About 30 officials also considered other aspects of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy approved in April 2014, including firefighter response and making landscapes resilient to fire.
"We will always prioritize life and property as a very high priority," said Intermountain Region Forester Nora Rasure of the U.S. Forest Service. "But when you draw resources into the community to protect life and property, you're drawing them away from the larger landscape. That larger landscape has some critical values. It's the watershed for communities. It's the economic livelihood for some communities."
The meeting was part analyzing the past fire season and part brainstorming for ways to face expected challenges in the next fire season; you can read AP reporter Keith Ridler’s full report here.
Sue Stewart, intermountain region fire director for the Forest Service, said 1,000-person crews that battle gigantic blazes could be used in the offseason to descend on communities to remove brush or trees and help make those communities more defensible for when fire does arrive. "Maybe we need big, long-term thinking," said Mark Larson, a former Idaho fire marshal who served as facilitator at the meeting.