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Over 200 Idaho firefighters sent across the West this wildfire season

Massive Caldor Fire Threatens Lake Tahoe Area Of California
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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Getty Images North America
MEYERS, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 31: U.S. Forest Service firefighters prepare to battle the Caldor Fire on August 31, 2021 in Meyers, California. The Caldor Fire has burned over 190,000 acres, destroyed hundreds of structures and is currently 16 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As of Friday, the Idaho Department of Lands and Timber Protective Association have sent 221 employees to other Western states to assist fighting fires in the field, according to a press release from IDL.

Firefighters have been deployed to New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Alaska, California, Washington, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming. They’re also assisting the U.S. Forest Service and the Nez Perce Tribe.

The slow start to Idaho’s fire season has made it possible to send firefighters away to gain experience and training while building relationships with the surrounding states, according to the release.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said in the release that this was an opportunity for firefighters to gain experience on the dime of other states and the federal government, which gives Idaho taxpayers a bit of a break. The Department of Lands will be reimbursed by the other jurisdictions for the wages and expenses incurred by Idaho firefighters while they are on off-district assignments.

During the 2021 fire season, President Joe Biden increased the federal minimum wage for firefighters to $15 per hour. New firefighters in Idaho are paid $15 per hour to start.

The Idaho Legislature approved a budget that includes the Department of Lands spending over $1 million to make fire-billing, reporting, invoicing, accounting and cost-sharing more efficient by switching from a paper system to the electronic Gold’s Business System. This system is being universally adopted by the Western states, according to the release, and reimbursement from the federal government is typically seen in less than a year rather than up to five years it takes to see it with the current system.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.