ITD and the Idaho Department of Lands recently signed a memorandum of understanding that is the first of its kind in the nation to align wildland fire traffic control with the federal “Incident Sign Installation Guide.”
“Our MOU can serve as a model agreement for other states and fire agencies across the country to follow,” says Greg Laragan, ITD’s assistant chief engineer for operations. “It can set the standard for other agencies in developing cooperative agreements that incorporate uniform sign practices.”
The agreement, completed in April, specifies the roles of both state agencies when a forest or range fire impacts the transportation system. Generally, the MOU assigns initial responsibility for temporary traffic control to ITD. During the first 24 to 48 hours, ITD will install regulatory warning signs, provide flagging and pilot vehicle operations and remove debris from the highway.
If an event persists beyond the initial 24- 48-hour response, ITD relinquishes traffic control to the Department of Lands or its designee. In some cases, ITD employees and equipment can continue service on a contract basis, explains Louie Albright, who helped pioneer the unique MOU.
Upon request from the Department of Lands, ITD will provide:
Those traffic control standards are outlined in an “Incident Sign Installation Guide,” that conforms with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), explains ITD’s Bryan Smith.
Highway signs specified for use during fires are similar to standard signs, except they will be printed on a fluorescent pink background, Albright says. Signs typically will indicate “Fire Activity Ahead,” “Fire Traffic Entering Road,” “Emergency Scene Ahead,” and helibase and incident base directional signs.
Standard orange and black signs can be used for initial response if the special pink signs are unavailable. Albright said each district might be asked to stock the new signs and have them available for emergency use.
The MOU, Albright explains, will help standardize the type of traffic control throughout the state. It also will help provide communications and safety among other agencies, while providing customers and the traveling public adequate warning of a fire incident.