Officials are finding it difficult to predict fire behavior because this year’s data don’t fit any model. Experts say climate change is a big part of this season’s extremes. By Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman.
Busy Week for Fires in Northern Rockies. Record-Breaking Fire Season? New West. By David Nolt.
New fire threatens home in Southeast Idaho [near Preston]; 14 other fires rage. By Tessa Schweiger. Idaho Statesman.
My view is that a century of bad grazing practice, suppression of forest fires, logging with little consideration of its effects (positive or negative) on future fuel conditions are major factors, but number one is the drying and warming climate. This makes the fight against cheatgrass, the need to restore native grasses and forbs, conservation of large trees in unlogged areas, and judicious thinning (not just any kind of thinning) of forests more important than ever.
Another restorative change, too little discussed, is the need to restore beaver to those streams lucky enough to have willows, aspen, cottonwoods, and other brushes available for beaver ponds. This will raise the humidity and increase the size of the riparian (streamside) green zone, serving to stop fires in years that are not extreme.
We have to face the fact that irreversible change is underway in many places and some, maybe a lot, of forest will change to brush (the ideal would be sagebrush steppe), and sagebrush steppe to pure desert. The latter will be intensified by continued “traditional” livestock grazing and projects such as Nevada’s to mine the aquifers under the valleys of the Great Basin to provide water for Las Vegas.
Continuing sprawl of recreational homes into forests is very harmful because fire fighters divert the fires (by lighting backfires) in directions that often burn more, rather than less, to save the homes.