President Joe Biden is coming to Boise on Monday to visit the National Interagency Fire Center, part of a trip out west where he will also visit Sacramento, California, to survey wildfire damage.
Fires can last into September and even October in Idaho, but the main part of fire season is July, August and into September. This year, the National Interagency Fire Center has predicted above normal significant wildland fire potential for the Treasure Valley in September.
This fire season has also seen some sparks between Biden and Gov. Brad Little.
In June, Little said he and Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte were left out of a meeting with eight governors and Biden about wildfires.
“We were disappointed to learn not all western states who face a harsh wildfire season will be at the table,” the two wrote at the time. “It is critical we have a federal partner in the White House who is willing to do what needs to be done year-round to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.”
But in July, Little joined other western governors for a virtual meeting with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss extreme heat, drought and fire conditions.
Little did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Democratic leaders welcomed the visit.
“I'm grateful to President Biden for making wildfire damage in Idaho a priority,” House Assistant Minority Leader Lauren Necochea (D-19) wrote in an email to the Idaho Press. “Those of us who remember Idaho summers from decades ago can attest to the dramatic change.”
As of Sept. 9, 79 large wildfires are actively burning in 10 states, the National Interagency Fire Center said in a tweet. Of those, 21 are burning in Idaho. Active fires are burning over 2.9 million acres, including 203,136 acres in Idaho.
The national preparedness level has been at the highest level, five, for 57 days. So far this year, 43,869 fires have burned 5,165,103 acres.
The nation has been at preparedness levels four and five for 71 days, tied for the third-longest ever with 2020, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
This will be Biden’s trip first to Idaho as president, according to KTVB.COM, but he did come to Idaho as vice president in 2009 for the Special Olympics World Winter Games. He also visited Boise in 2019 for a private campaign fundraiser.
Barack Obama visited the state in 2015, according to the Idaho State Journal. Before that, George W. Bush visited in 2005 and Bill Clinton visited in 2000.
Clinton traveled to Idaho in 1996 to comfort flood victims and again in 2000 after large fires.
The 2021 wildfire season has been bad, though fire activity “moderated across Idaho and Montana the latter half of August.”
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said in an email to the Idaho Press that Idaho is seeing the impacts of climate change.
“I look forward to welcoming President Biden to Boise,” McLean said. “(We) are proud of the work the National Interagency Fire Center has done to protect the West from fire.”
Both McLean and Necochea said action was necessary to combat climate change.
“If we don't take steps as a state and nation to address climate change, we can only expect more devastation from wildfires,” Necochea said.