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Citizens Fighting Fire

Citizens and Wildland Fire

Frequently, citizens respond to wildfires on BLM lands.

Wildland fire at night

Why Does it Matter?

The BLM recognizes and values the importance of public lands to Idaho’s citizens and understands citizens’ desire to assist in firefighting efforts; however, the BLM cannot advocate or authorize independent wildland fire suppression action by citizens on public lands. 

Independent actions by citizens have created potentially difficult and unsafe situations for themselves and the responding BLM initial attack fire resources managing the wildfires, aviation resources, and Incident Commander (IC) suppressing the wildfire. 

Several situations have occurred where privately owned equipment taking action on public land was completely destroyed by wildfire and in some instances, those citizens narrowly escaped serious injury or death. In all of these cases, the citizens were taking action on the fire independent of the federal firefighting agencies. 

At times, citizens trying to suppress wildfires have disturbed the ground using dozers, tractors with discs and other equipment. These unauthorized, independent suppression actions may violate federal law and conflict with land-management plan objectives.  

BLM’s Mission

Firefighter and public safety has been and continues to be the number one priority for all federal firefighting agencies. Policies and laws are in place to ensure that fires are managed effectively, while keeping the safety of employees and the public as the number one priority.

What Can You Do?

If a wildland fire occurs near your property, the most helpful, productive action you can take is to contact BLM as soon as possible. 
The BLM will then coordinate with you regarding the safety of your family and neighbors; determine how your property might be protected; and ask you for information that will assist in firefighting efforts. 

Working Together

Although the BLM does not regulate actions on your own private property, we want to work with landowners to help ensure safety and that your property is protected and is part of the overall fire suppression strategy. Firefighters cannot legally direct your actions on your own property and will not assume responsibility for the independent actions you take. Therefore, the best course of action is to establish and maintain open communications with the Incident Commander or designee to ensure shared understanding and personal, public, and firefighter safety.

Can I Use My Own Equipment? 

Contact your local BLM office to learn about contracting your equipment for use as needed on a wildfire. Do this before the fire season so that required training, inspections and paperwork can be completed ahead of time. Note that most commonly used fire equipment is under a formal solicitation for a period of three years. Equipment may be signed up on an incident-only basis for initial attack, but BLM’s policy is to first use vendors who have had their equipment signed-up through the formal solicitation process. For longer-lasting wildfires, local dispatch centers must use the dispatch priority list prior to using equipment not on a formal solicitation list. 

Standard equipment specifications can be found at the Eastern Great Basin Coordination Center's Website.

 wildfire at night

rangeland fire


Idaho's First Rangeland Fire Protection Association (RFPA)

On July 10, 2012 the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) formally recognized the first Rangeland Fire Protection Association (RFPA) in Idaho. Over that year, a group of private landowners in Elmore County worked closely with the IDL, using a successful RFPA located in Oregon as a model. 

An RFPA is a non-profit organization established to prevent and suppress range fires. It is governed by the members and funded by fees set by a local board, as well as grant dollars. Equipment and training are provided through IDL. Boise District’s Fire Management, in partnership with IDL, provided the association members with basic fire training. 

After the success of this organization, other groups located in southern Idaho have formed similar associations.

Read more about the Mountain Home RFPA and its accomplishments.