Idaho ranchers jump at chance to fight wildfires

Some are getting training to serve as first responders on blazes on public lands.


GLENNS FERRY - Groups such as the Saylor Creek Rangeland Fire Protection Association are springing up around southern Idaho, made up of ranchers who want to help suppress fires.

"We make it a practice to have somebody out watching," said John Solosabal, a member of the Saylor Creek association. "Last Friday, it was my turn. We had a lot of lightning, and all of a sudden smoke showed up."

Solosabal contacted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and then began rounding up other members of the association. He knew the nearest firefighter engine was almost an hour from his ranch, but the group was able to use a tractor and disc to dig a fire line and keep more grazing land from going up in smoke.

Earlier this year, Gov. Butch Otter approved a $400,000 appropriation to help form and train the rangeland fire protection associations across the state.

Members get online and hands-on training with the BLM, and are given radios.

"It's nice to have a radio and let them (BLM) know if a fire is more than we can handle," Solosabal said. "Maybe if we need an airdrop, we can communicate that need. It's a very good thing. Now we have coordination."

BLM spokesman Josh Olsen said Solosabal and his group responded within the first 10 minutes and kept the blaze small.

"The fire didn't get very big," Olsen said. "Which is a good thing. That's what these groups are designed to do."

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