Wildland fires are fires caused by nature or humans that result in the uncontrolled destruction of forests, brush, field crops, grasslands, and real and personal property.
Wildland fire can quickly consume large areas, destroying property and taking lives. When huge fires or conflagrations strike, there is often little that can be done to control them and residents may be forced to flee. Dense smoke may fill the area for miles around the fire, impacting areas not directly affected by the flames. Because smoke from such fires contains substantial amounts of fine particulate matter and other hazardous pollutants, fires pose direct health impacts, especially for the young and elderly, as well as economic damages due to loss of tourist business. Wildland fires also threaten infrastructure as well as wildland resource values such as water, timber, wildlife habitat and recreation.
Wildfires have resulted in significant disasters throughout Idaho’s history; the fires in the summers of 2000 and 2007 were some of the most damaging on record and the 1910 fire in northern Idaho and western Montana has been characterized as the largest in American history, taking 86 lives and burning three million acres. The problem continues to grow throughout Idaho as communities expand into the wildland-urban interface, the climate changes and healthy forest management is hindered. There is no county in the State of Idaho without a significant wildland fire hazard.