50 years of wildfire support: National Interagency Fire Center celebrates golden anniversary.

Sunset over the NIFC campus in Boise, Idaho.


As the nation’s wildland firefighting support center and the hub for wildland fire suppression and mitigation efforts worldwide, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has long been a part of the fabric of Boise, Idaho. Although the actual year of NIFC’s inception has been long debated, with records dating back as far as the 1950’s, the center became operational in 1969 and formally dedicated on July 25, 1970. 


Aerial view of the original Boise Interagency Fire Center (NIFC Archive)

In an effort to reduce duplication of fire services, cut costs and coordinate national fire planning and operations the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Weather Service (NWS) joined together and formed what was originally titled the Boise Interagency Fire Center (BIFC), but the national scale of the missions and partners drove a change of title in 1993, bringing us what we now know as NIFC. In the mid-1970s the National Park Service (NPS) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) joined operations, followed in 1979 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). As the complexity and national focus of wildland fire management began to expand, partners including the U.S. Fire Administration, National Association of State Foresters, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) joined the NIFC team in the early 2000s. NIFC also includes a Department of Defense (DoD) liaison, recognizing the importance of our partnership with both DoD and National Guard bureaus across the country

NIFC Entrance Sign

Entrance sign at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC Photo)

So, what is NIFC? 

NIFC is the hub of logistical and operational support for wildland firefighting efforts across the country, and in some cases around the globe. It is a place where land management agencies representing state, federal and, tribal interests come together to plan and execute the mobilization of fire personnel, aircraft, supplies, and equipment, ensuring it goes where it is needed most. While the primary focus for NIFC continues to be the support to wildland fire operations, represented agencies and organizations have come to look to NIFC for support during some of our nations most catastrophic events including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. 

NIFC is home to more than just firefighters! It is also home to a variety of services and functions that support the logistical and operational needs across the country. Great examples can be seen with the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC), National Radio Cache and the Great Basin Smokejumper Base. 
The NICC serves as the focal point for the national coordination and mobilization of resources for wildland fires and other incidents across the United States and for all international response efforts. In 2019, the NICC supported over 12,000 resource requests and coordinated over 50 large transit jet flights mobilizing nearly 5,200 firefighters to Alaska and Northern California. They also assisted in the international mobilization of resources to Canada and Australia. 


A look inside the National Interagency Coordination Center (NIFC Photo)

The National Radio Cache is arguable the largest civilian, non-military, radio cache in the world and has over 11,000 handheld radios, 300 repeaters, and other communications equipment such as link kits for aircraft. The National Radio Cache can support over 32,000 firefighters or 53 major disasters at one time. After use, radios and systems are returned to the team at the cache where they are cleaned, reprogrammed, tested and repaired with an average turn-around time of 2-4 hours. 

One of the most recognizable features at NIFC is the Great Basin Smokejumper Loft. The Boise based smokejumper base is one of two BLM jump bases in the nation, hosting upwards of 80 jumpers every season. Smokejumpers are highly experienced wildland firefighters who fly to fires via airplane and parachute as closely as they can to the fire, helping keep high-risk fires as small as possible. In 2019, smokejumpers from the Boise base conducted 1,316 practice or proficiency jumps and 232 fire jumps on 42 fires across the Great Basin.

Boise Smokejumper Loft

Great Basin Smokejumers pause for a group photo in front of the iconic Smokejumper loft at NIFC.

Join us in celebrating this milestone anniversary by checking out the many photos and stories that will be streaming on the NIFC social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter and follow the event hashtag #NIFC50.

Katy O’Hara is the Partnership Program Lead for the Office of Wildland Fire. Katy also serves as a Public Information Officer with the Pacific Northwest Type 1 Incident Management Teams and is an active member of the Navy Reserve.