Letters from the West

Boise Forest Chief brings Lund’s firefighting team back

Boise National Forest Supervisor Cecilia Seesholtz said the 81,000 Pioneer Fire is not going out soon and with the current weather forecast may even become more active.

“We still have a lot of fire in the forest,” Seesholtz told the Idaho Statesman Thursday.

That’s why Wednesday Seeholtz made the decision to keep a Type One Incident Command team, managing the firefight when the two separate teams currently leading the fight leave early next week. And by the luck of the draw, the team led by Beth Lund, who spent more than 20 years as a fire officer on the Boise National Forest and already has done a stint on the Pioneer Fire, will return.

National teams like Lund’s lead a large firefight for two weeks and then take a few days off before heading to the next fire. Lund had lived in Lowman for 18 years where was a fire officer. She became the fire management officer on the Boise before moving to the regional Forest Service office in Ogden.

The fire, which is the largest in the nation, already has cost $50 million dollars and is not expected to be contained until September 30. The size of the firefighting force on the Pioneer Fire dropped by 300 from 1,800 to 1,500 and beginning Sunday it will go from two separate incident command teams.

The fire camp will move from Idaho City to Garden Valley, where most of the action is. A spike camp will remain in Idaho City to serve the firefighters working the lines south and east of Lowman.

The main reason for keeping the Type 1 team is the complexity of the Pioneer Fire, Seesholtz said. There is active burning on the north, west, east and south of the huge fire. When winds shift it can completely change the situation.

The fire slopped over the drainage moving back west toward Pioneerville. That prompted the fire team to schedule a public meeting at the Centerville Fire Station Friday at 7 p.m.

The major change in conditions on the fire is the drying of the brushfields left over from past fires. The larger trees have been very dry already but the brush held some moisture until now and that helped slow down the fire’s spread.

“The later we go the more it’s going to want to burn, Seesholtz said.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker