The Idaho Department of Lands is investigating an increase in human-caused fires in 2023. (Photo courtesy of Ada County)
The state is investigating an increase in human-caused fires as hot, dry conditions continue to present an elevated risk, the director of the Idaho Department of Lands told Gov. Brad Little and other members of the Idaho Stand Board of Land Commissioners on Tuesday in Boise.
Through last week, 152 of the 198 fires reported within the Idaho Department of Lands protection area were caused by humans.
That compares to 46 fires caused by lightning.
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“We are seeing more unwanted human-caused fires, in fact human-caused fires are up about 30 percent this year,” Idaho Department of Lands Director Dustin Miller said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Due to hot dry conditions, Miller told the land board that North Idaho and Southwest Idaho continue to face an elevated wildfire risk through September.
“July put Idaho on a rapid drying trend with above-average temperatures and below-normal precipitation,” Miller said. “Predictions show a warmer than normal remainder of the fire season.”
As of last week, 62,327 acres in Idaho have burned in wildfires this year, Miller said.
On Tuesday, two large fires continued to burn on U.S. Forest Service land in Idaho. The Elkhorn Fire has burned 25,978 acres in the Payette National Forest, and the perimeter is 40% contained, according to the InciWeb interagency information management system report on the fire.
The Hayden Fire, located in the Lemhi Range 18 miles west of Leadore, has burned 24,447 acres. That fire is burning on steep and difficult terrain, and evacuation zones in the area are in the “ready” status under the ready, set go wildfire evacuation system, according to the Hayden Fire’s InciWeb report.
The cause of both fires is, so far, undetermined, and the cause of the Elkhorn Fire was listed as under investigation Tuesday.
As a result of elevated fire risk, the state instituted stage one fire restrictions in Central Idaho and stage two fire restrictions in the Coeur d’Alene dispatch zone in North Idaho, Miller said.
Under stage one fire restrictions, building a fire, campfire or stove fire is prohibited except in a designated recreation site or on the person’s own land using an owner-provided fire structure. Under stage two fire restrictions, building a fire, campfire or stove fire is prohibited outright.
Additional fire prevention and preparedness tips are available on the Idaho Department of Lands website.
Outside of Idaho, the number of deaths from wildfires burning in Maui increased to 99 on Monday, the Associated Press reported. Canada is having one of its worst fire seasons in history, Reuters reported.
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