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The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise is about to tackle a backlog of deferred maintenance projects that are designed to reduce costs and address safety issues, with funding authorized by the Great American Outdoors Act, writes Idaho Capital Sun reporter Clark Corbin. Idaho 2nd District GOP Congressman Mike Simpson was a lead sponsor of the bill. The fire center projects are an example of some of the Department of Interior’s multiyear, multibillion dollar deferred maintenance projects that are coming back from the feds to benefit Idaho.

“We want to stay on top of deferred maintenance because there is a cost with that,” Melissa Towers of the Bureau of Land Management said.

At the fire center hangar, for instance, Towers said the fire suppression system is 15 years old, requires constant repairs and regularly issues false alarms. It’s about a 7,020 gross square-foot facility that can hold two King Air airplanes or occasionally a helicopter.

Idaho is in a unique situation, hosting the fire center. The 55-acre campus adjacent to the Boise Airport is essentially the national headquarters for wildfire management. Nine different agencies with wildland fire programs are based on the campus. During the height of the fire season, there might be 800 to 900 people at the fire center, coordinating sending a tanker to a fire in Montana or dispatching a helicopter to central Idaho.

“This is the hub for sending fire management resources throughout the country,” said Jessica Gardetto, the external affairs chief for the Bureau of Land Management Fire/National Interagency Fire Center. You can read Corbin's full story here online at idahocapitalsun.com, or pick up today's print edition of the Idaho press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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