Southeast Boise Neighborhood Gets Additional Wildfire Protection 

Forage kochia can slow wildfires and out-compete cheatgrass, making it an attractive option to the BLM for creating fuel breaks. - BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Forage kochia can slow wildfires and out-compete cheatgrass, making it an attractive option to the BLM for creating fuel breaks.
Southeast Boise subdivision Surprise Valley boasts of high selling points when it comes to real estate in the City of Trees: The neighborhood perches on a rim that overlooks the foothills and the Boise River, and is full of luxury estates and spacious homes, along with clubhouses and condos. 

But those tinder-dry foothills now pose a serious fire risk to residents.

As a preemptive strike, the Bureau of Land Management is constructing a 50-foot-wide fuel break around the southern and eastern edges of Surprise Valley division Canyon Point. The project started last month and should be completed this fall.

Creating this fire break includes prescribed goat grazing, chemical treatment and the planting of prostrate kochia—a fire-resistant plant that out-competes cheatgrass that also goes by "forage kochia" and "prostrate summer cypress."

Boise Weekly readers first learned about the plant during the Idaho Environmental Forum in May. The scrubby, urchin-like plant is used by the BLM to create fuel breaks in the Snake River Plain to protect sage grouse habitat. 

"Forage kochia is non-native, but if it works, that's what matters," Lance Okeson, a fire management specialist for the Boise District Office of the BLM, told the IEF in May. "If we don't do something, it's just a matter of time. We lose millions of acres in a 24-hour period."

click to enlarge A melted fence at Spring Bar Campground near the Tepee Springs Fire. - INCIWEB
  • InciWeb
  • A melted fence at Spring Bar Campground near the Tepee Springs Fire.
BLM fire crews will thin brush parallel to the New York Canal and Boise River, leaving enough habitat for wildlife. Reducing the risk of wildfire and human-caused starts will result in fewer disturbances to the native vegetation and create an anchor point for initial attack should a fire start. Ada County and the Surprise Valley subdivision are providing additional support.

During this record fire year, the Boise National Forest announced that the Boise Air Tanker Base has pumped more than a million gallons of fire retardant into various air tankers during this fire season.

Over the past decade, the base averaged around 821,500 gallons, with the highest being in 1994, when 1.6 million gallons were used. The low came in 2008 and 2009, when only 95,000 gallons were used collectively. Air tankers can carry from 700 to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant at a time.

Meanwhile, on Idaho's wildfire front, the Tepee Springs Fire 3 miles from Riggins continues to burn 94,757 acres. With almost 800 crew members working on the fire, it's now 70 percent contained. The Salmon River has reopened for rafters after the fire closed it in late August. No more evacuations are in effect, but the Salmon River Road remains closed.

Warmer weather this week could cause re-ignition of light fuels like grass.

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