The Idaho Transportation Department’s is committed to providing a cost-effective transportation system that is safe, reliable and responsive to the needs of Idahoans.
Congestion is becoming a part of daily life in many places of Idaho as traffic continues to increase on the highway system. Contributors to this congestion are motor vehicle fires that sometimes occur outside the jurisdiction of an organized fire department.
According to the state fire marshal, there were 1,007 vehicle fires reported in 2001, of which 108 were on interstate highways. In 2005 there were 1,025 fires, including 111 on interstates.
An average of six vehicle fires occur each year outside the jurisdiction of an organized fire department and can continue to burn uncontrolled for hours until they finally burn themselves out. Those incidents are time consuming, resource demanding, infrastructure damaging, route restricting and frustrating to the victims.
Those fires can force the closure of highways for several hours, putting responders, ITD personnel and other motorists at risk. In an effort to minimize those risks and the economic impacts of fire-related closures, ITD and the State Fire Marshal’s office have developed a response/cost recovery plan.
Each incident can cost highway users as much as $10,000 for a three-hour delay, based on the following:
More important, these delays isolate people from activities, such as going to work, recreation and family time, according to ITD’s State of Idaho Highway Fire Response Plan. “The benefit of keeping our roadways clear is invaluable.”
National emergency response expert John O’Lauaghlin calls the delays and associated costs “a nationwide problem, and no other state in the union has been able to devise a solution.”
ITD might be among the first, however.
To address the problem, ITD and the State Fire Marshal have jointly developed an agreement for consideration by fire departments that respond to vehicle fires outside their jurisdictions.
Working with the Attorney General’s office, the Idaho Department of Lands and the Bureau of Land Management, ITD and the fire marshal have developed a contract that provides for fire department coverage at a fair rate of compensation. The compensation is based on the Department of Lands rate book for incidents that involve structure protection during a wildland fire or a vehicle fire.
A typical response cost likely would be between $350 and $1,000.
Fire agencies, according to the collaborative plan, will bill their costs through the fire marshal’s office to ITD, which in turn will charge insurance companies to reimburse the account. Although ITD expects to recover most, if not all, of the costs from insurance companies, $10,000 would be needed to establish the account.
Among the benefits of implementing the plan are:
“The benefits far outweigh the costs,” according to the proposal. “It is a small investment with a huge payback.”
Questions about the proposal can be directed to ITD’s Louie Albright (208) 332-2021 or firstname.lastname@example.org