On August 29th 1985, the Butte Fire blew up in the Salmon River canyon of central Idaho. The blow-up sent 73 firefighters into their fire shelters, where they spent a harrowing 1-2 hours. It was not a tragedy, but it was a close call.
On June 28-30, 2016, the Salmon-Challis National Forest sponsored a 2-day Staff Ride to review and learn from the initial event. By 2016, many of those involved in the 1985 event held leadership positions in wildland fire management and were able to return, either as leaders of the Staff Ride or as participants to contribute their perspective and how the event has influenced their development and thinking. The staff ride stimulated individual and collective learning among the many survivors who returned, Forest leadership, and the Forest’s fire organization.
The original event offers managers today the opportunity to consider successful decision-making and performance of fire shelters as well as to recognize how such events can trigger advances in agency culture and equipment. The ecological conditions, management actions, and result of the Butte Fire also continue to touch upon the most pressing issues the Forest Service faces today – fire behavior and ecosystem resilience, effective wildland fire strategy and tactics, acceptable risks to life, agency response to traumatic incidents, and how to learn from past events.
With this Past Event page, we seek to provide a format for continued learning, and challenge readers to consider how might you and your organization – as a unit and as individuals – keep a learning conversation going?
Butte Fire Staff Ride - Preliminary Study
Behavior of the life-threatening Butte Fire: August 27-29, 1985