This summer is already shaping up to be hotter and drier earlier in the season due to climate change. Higher temperatures translate into lower snowpack and fuels that are quick to ignite, which means the greater possibility of more frequent, bigger wildfires and longer fire seasons.
Over the last 30 years, climate change has nearly doubled the area affected by forest fires in the western U.S. Fire seasons from 2003 to 2012 were nearly 85 days longer on average than those from 1973 to 1982. The average burn time of the largest wildfires also increased from about 6 days to more than 50 days.
Southern Idaho is an epicenter for wildfires. It’s estimated that more than 75% of the Payette and more than 60% of the Boise National Forests have burned in the past 35 years. So far this year, 95% of Idaho’s fires have been started by people and they have already burned three times as many acres over the 20-year average.
WHAT IDAHOANS CAN DO
Support the strategic management and thinning of forests: Forest management practices can focus on brush-clearing and thinning to strategically defend rural communities most at risk from wildfire. Careful residential development planning that acknowledges the reality of more frequent and intense fires helps safeguard our communities, streams, and other water sources.
Controlled burns and natural fire: Fire can be a cost-effective tool for keeping forests and streams healthy. Careful controlled burning during the spring and fall can help reduce the intensity of future fires, and can help corral wildfires if they do ignite. Also, it’s sometimes not safe or realistic to put out every fire in the backcountry. A little smoke and inconvenience today can help prevent larger, more destructive blazes in decades to come.
Be fire aware: The predominant cause of wildfires in Idaho is people. To prevent causing a wildfire, make sure you completely drown campfires before leaving them, don’t park your car or truck on dry grass, and don’t set off fireworks in unsafe conditions such as dry grass and without a bucket of water nearby.
Reduce your climate impact: Use public transportation, conserve electricity during the hottest parts of the day, and walk or bike to work. There’s a direct connection between climate change and wildfires. Please do your part.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Dr. Aly Bean, Climate Campaign Coordinator, 208-345-6933 x. 123
Jonathan Oppenheimer, External Relations Director, 208-345-6933 x. 126 or 208-867-3505
Image source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information,Climate at a Glance (spring and summer temperature) Climate Central analysis of U.S. Forest Service Records (fires). Available here.
Extent of Idaho fires 1984-2019 Available here.