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Wildland firefighter force more than doubles

More than twice as many wildland firefighters are assigned to large fires this year as a year ago, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise reported July 11. NIFC is the nation’s base for wildfire management and logistics.

About 8,300 firefighters are working on large fires nationwide, up from 3,900 a year ago, NIFC spokesman Ken Frederick said. More than 805,000 acres have burned in the eastern Great Basin, which includes most of Idaho, compared to 6,000 a year earlier, he said.

About 721 firefighters are assigned to large fires in Idaho. Another 300 to 400 are standing by to attack new fires of various sizes, Frederick said. No firefighters were assigned to large fires in Idaho a year earlier.

Helicopters, air tankers, mobile showers and catering units, engines, infrared and radio equipment, and various specialty crews have been mobilized.

Timber fires of 100 acres, and grass or brush fires of 300 acres are considered large, Frederick said. Some aren’t managed for full suppression – as when a fire is consuming debris, burning uphill toward rock or snow, and not threatening structures. Frederick said July 11 that an additional 690 firefighters were working on 33 of these. Thirty-eight large fires are being managed for full suppression.

Personnel levels vary on the big, full-suppression fires. Frederick said the Fontenelle and Arapaho timber fires in Wyoming involve 667 and 747 firefighters, respectively. In northern California, the Sites Complex and Mill Fire, which threaten many structures, involve 1,339 people and 1,114, respectively.

Fires in sage and grass, which can be walked on soon after the fire burns through, involve fewer people, Frederick said.

In southern Idaho, 300 people were assigned to the 216,000-acre Kinyon Road Fire near Castleford July 11, and 36 worked on the 25,000-acre Benwalk Fire north of Glenns Ferry.

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