BLM Boise District hosts fire investigation training

Over 25 students attended from various state, local and federal agencies
Posted at 6:27 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 20:46:30-04

The Bureau of Land Management conducted several controlled burns south of Boise on Tuesday as a part of their Wildland Fire Origin and Cause Determination Course. It is a 5-day course that gives students an opportunity to learn from seasoned fire investigators and tools for determining a fire's cause.

Investigating a fire is key in preventing a fire, explains Court Gossard, a BLM Lead Fire Investigator and Trespass Coordinator, "We're mandated to investigate all human-caused fires, in doing so that helps us drive our prevention program. If we notice that there's an uptick in a certain cause of fire, the program can address that with the public."

Across the United States, humans were responsible for 87% of wildfires in the last 10 years. In 2022, 80% of fires on BLM Boise District lands were human-caused. Vehicle and shooting-related sparks are among the most common causes. The job does not end when the fire is put out, there must be an investigation to hold the perpetrator accountable. Gossard explains, "Fires cost money to suppress. If there's a responsible party through their negligence that has started a fire, we seek restitution for the cost of suppression for that fire."

The investigators work backwards and narrow down potential causes to its source. "Their are varying aspects to each investigation, no two investigations are the same," Gossard explains.

24 burn plots were set up to give the students a chance to observe and analyze fire behavior. "We've prepared these burned plots so we could bring students out here and show them in person on three dimensional objects - how the fire impacts the landscape and leaves behind its burn pattern indicators." Burn pattern indicators include the angle of the char, white ash deposits, staining and sooting on certain objects.

The annual fire prevention order is active through October 20th. According to the BLM, "The Fire Prevention Order makes it illegal to use fireworks, exploding targets, steel component ammunition, tracer ammunition, shooting at steel or ferrous material targets or burn explosive materials on BLM-managed lands in Idaho."