U.S. Forest Service adopts new (old) wildfire policy

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - 2012 was a fire season Idahoans will not soon forget. The small town of Featherville was evacuated, and the Treasure Valley endured day after day of smoky skies.

This brutal fire season happened while the National Forest Service was trying out a new way to battle wildfires. In hopes of reducing their budget, they tried a strategy of putting out every fire immediately before it had the chance to grow and cost them more money.

But the forest service realized this was a step backwards from what we know about Idaho.

Wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem in the West. When the forest service suppresses every little fire, then a lot of brush is allowed to accumulate making perfect tinder for bigger fires in the future. When fires burn through, they clear the hillside of a lot of that flammable brush.

So this year, fire managers are going back to their time-tested firefighting methods. Instead of attacking every fire with everything they have, they will examine how close a fire is to property or structures or popular recreation areas, and how risky the terrain is for firefighters, before deciding how to act.

"So all those factors come together to say what is the best suppression strategy for a given new fire start and what are the options to look at how to best fight that fire," says David Olson, spokesperson for the Boise National Forest.