Fire investigators train for wildfire season in Boise

Posted at 4:09 PM, Jun 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-15 16:36:02-04

Government agencies want the public to know that if they start a wildfire and investigators find out the cause was negligence then the person responsible will be billed for the cost of fighting the fire.

The Idaho Department of Lands, the forest service, the BLM and the Idaho State Fire Marshall in a joint operation conducted training to identify the cause of a fire in preparation for the wildfire season.

"This is extremely valuable you really need to do something like this every year before fire season to get tuned up and ready," said Bob Helmer of the Idaho Department of Lands who has been investigating fires for nearly 40 years.

In 2017 there were 213 fires, 146 of those were caused by humans which cost $3.4 million to put out, investigators sent out 26 bills to people who were responsible.

Lightning caused the most fires, 67, then miscellaneous 41, equipment 28, debris burning 21, incendiary 20, campfires 17, smoking 8, under investigation 7, children 3 and railroads 1.

Of the miscellaneous 15 were unknown, nine were power lines, six fireworks and structures, three firearms and two spontaneous.

This shows how good these investigators are at determining the cause of the fire, out of 213 total fires investigators had only 15 that they don't know the fire started.

However, if these investigators find negligence they send out a bill and the money recovered goes back into fire preparedness to hire more firefighters, conduct training and get equipment.

"The big thing is to be careful with fire," said Helmer. "Most of the people are really surprised when they get a bill they tell us it was just an accident."

Investigators also want to remind the public that closed fire season lasts until October 20, meaning that people who do controlled burns need to obtain a fire safety burn permit, 14,140 permits were issued in 2017.

To see how these investigators piece together the puzzle of how a fire started check out the video, it resembles CSI only for fires.

For more information from the Idaho Department of Lands click here.