The logistics of getting equipment and supplies to 25,000 firefighters doing battle with numerous wildfires in the West is a staggering task that is getting worse - and the supply stockpile is dwindling.
Supplies are leaving the Boise Interagency Fire Center in such large quantities they are being counted by the thousands and measured by the ton.As of Wednesday, the fire center, which is the central stockpile for federal, state and local agencies throughout the country, had shipped 31,000 fire-retardant shirts, 25,445 pair of trousers and 323,310 D-cell flashlight batteries, along with32,000 paper sleeping bags, 7,000 cloth sleeping bags, 17,000 goggles and 42,000 canteens.
The overall count so far this season is 2.5 million pounds of supplies at a cost of about $14.6 million.
"With the fire season not over we've clearly exceeded anything we've done since 1980," said fire information spokesman Gary Lidholm.
The area burned in fires this season is already one million acres above the entire 1987 season, he said. The fire center was sending supplies to 25 different fires that were still burning out of control. The volume of requests from Yellowstone has exceeded all others this summer, he said.
More than 67,000 fires burning more than 3.6 million acres have been reported so far this year.
Local, state and federal agencies don't make requests of the Boise center until the supplies they warehouse individually are depleted. "Every agency, like the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and the National Park Service have their own regional and district supplies. When those are exhausted, then they come to Boise, Lidholm said.
Supplies are getting so low this summer that regional caches are borrowing from each other, Lidholm said, and the Boise center is making unscheduled purchases to re-stock its shelves.