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BLM proposes 400-mile fuel break network

Posted at 4:29 PM, May 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-13 18:29:30-04

The Bureau of Land Management wants public comment on a plan to build a network of fuel breaks spanning 400 miles in the Soda Fire burn. Although some of this work has already started on an emergency basis, the BLM is assessing the environmental effects of the project.

“Fuel breaks are critical tools that assist firefighters when we have to fight wind-driven brush fires,” said Boise District fire management officer Andy Delmas. “Without some way to reduce the intensity of brushfires, crews are really limited in what they can safely do to fight fires in the Owyhees. The system of fuel breaks we are proposing will give firefighters a whole new set of options for where and when they can safely attack wildfires.”

The proposed fuel breaks will comprise corridors of reduced fuels alongside selected roads. The Owyhee Field Office will use roads for fuel breaks that provide safe access for wildland fire equipment and personnel, as well as roads that offer the best potential for protecting Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation treatments and wildlife habitat, officials said.

Road maintenance will also be part of fuel break development. BLM officials said they are analyzing a variety of methods to create fuel breaks including mechanical and chemical treatments, seedings, and targeted grazing.

The August 2015 Soda Fire burned nearly 280,000 acres of public and private lands in Idaho and Oregon, destroying property and threatening entire communities.

“Since last summer, the BLM has been working on an unprecedented ESR campaign in the Soda Fire burn to minimize threats to life and property resulting from the fire and to prevent further degradation of land and resources,” said BLM spokesman Larry Moore.