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Fire Mitigation Position Will Concentrate on Helping Landowners

Burnt hillside near Lowman - Photo by Janet Juroch

Last Tuesday at the Regular Board of County Commissioner meeting a new Fire Mitigation position was created in the Emergency Management Department to address wildfire risk in and around homes in Boise County. The intent is that John Roberts, current Emergency Management Coordinator will soon go into this position to be able to focus on fire mitigation projects, particularly on private land.

Roberts will step down from the position as the Director of Emergency Management to concentrate more on the new county position, once we the county hires another Emergency Manager. The new employee will take over Roberts other duties in Emergency Management. This will not be an increase to taxpayers as money is already appropriated for EMC Director and a Forester. Roberts comes from extensive background in forestry and the position will be a good fit.

Roberts says, “I will work with landowners and fire departments to help landowners reduce fire danger around their homes and, more importantly, to create fuel breaks around communities that will give firefighters a chance of stopping a fire before it reaches the homes.” He says that utilizing grant funding from the Idaho Department of Lands and the US Forest Service, Boise County can then hire loggers and thinners to reduce fire risk in chosen areas.  20161006_114431

This new Fire Mitigation position will be fully supported by Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funds that are sent to the County by the federal government through the US Forest Service, which were instituted in 2000. The cost of having Federal lands in Boise County is somewhat addressed by these funds that have been sent to the County annually for 16 years. Most of these SRS funds go, appropriately, to maintain the road system of the County and to all three of our school districts. A small portion of those funds are dedicated to Title III of the Secure Rural Schools Act, which is focused on reducing fire hazard in forested counties such as ours. These funds have been not been fully utilized over the past few years and this new position will use those funds to get more wildfire mitigation work done on the ground.

Though this new position is created, Commissioner Chairman Alan Ward explains that some details need to be finalized. Ward goes onto say, “We have to create the Fire Mitigation job description since there has not been one. Once that is complete then Boise County Deputy Prosecutor, Dan Blocksom, will review the job description. The Commissioners will give the final approval.”

A job opening now exists to hire someone that can become the new Boise County Emergency Management Coordinator and still do some Forester jobs as well. That job will be managed for twelve months out of the year. Roberts will concentrate on Fire Mitigation Forestry and be available for training the new person as EMC and filling in gaps where needed. Hiring could take another forty-five days.

“There is a need for fire mitigation in some of the subdivisions in Boise County, particularly Mores Creek and Clear Creek on the east side“, according to Commissioner Ward. “Mitigation is badly needed to the west of all subdivisions in Garden Valley where it is heavily forested. This included Mountain Shadows, Castle Mountain and Terrace Lakes.” He agrees that “we all love to live in the trees and mountainside but we need to be prepared for fire or we could lose so many homes.”