SITPA is celebrating 120 years of service in 2024.
For over a century the Southern Idaho Timber Protective Association's firefighters have been protecting private, state, and federal lands in west-central Idaho from wildfires. SITPA is believed to be the oldest, continuously operating, cooperative fire management organization in the United States. Established informally in 1904 when private, state, and federal forest landowners joined together to provide wildfire protection for their lands, SITPA's members and employees remain committed to providing a strong, efficient and cost-effective fire protection organization.
SITPA is recognized as an approved timber protective association and operates under agreement approved by the state Board of Land Commissioners. Formally incorporated in 1981 as a private, non-profit corporation (IRS Code 501(c)(4)), SITPA is managed and directed by a Board of Directors elected annually by its members. Corporate Officers are elected by the Board of Directors. The Chief Fire Warden is appointed as the Secretary-Treasurer of the corporation and manages day-to-day business of the association and has been appointed as a state fire warden by the Director, Idaho Department of Lands. The Idaho Department of Lands is a member of SITPA.
With Headquarters located in McCall and a field office in Cascade, SITPA employs personnel to provide for the prevention, detection, and suppression of wildland fires throughout the Southern Idaho Forest Protective District. Firefighters and equipment (engines, water tenders and dozers) are located in McCall and Cascade, and SITPA has entered into agreements for the exchange of additional fire suppression resources when need with local, state and federal fire protection agencies.
Guy B. Mains was the first supervisor of the Payette National Forest. He was born in Wisconsin to a family of lumbermen. According to Mains, Wisconsin’s forests had “vanished” by the time he was of age, so he followed the timber industry as it moved west to California and Washington. He was working for Barber Lumber Company in Idaho when the Forest Service held the first examination for forest supervisor positions in the state. From 1925 to 1940, Mains was the supervisor of the Boise National Forest. Harry Shellworth moved to Boise in 1890, working as a messenger and later as a page for the state's first legislature. After extensive travel, Shellworth returned to Idaho in 1904. He worked as a land agent for the Payette Lumber & Manufacturing Company. In 1905, the Boise Lumber Company, Barber Lumber Company, A.W. Cook Timber Company, and the Payette Lumber and Manufacturing Company began pooling their woodsmen (timber cruisers and compass men) in fighting forest fires on their respective lands. Their efforts marked the beginning of what later became known as the Southern Idaho Timber Protective Association (SITPA). One hot day in July 1908, Shellworth was fighting a small fire on Dry Buck Summit above the confluence of the North and South Fork Payette Rivers when he encountered another man doing the same. “He was soot-blackened and fire-grimed,” Shellworth later recalled, but instantly recognizable as Guy B. Mains, supervisor of the “old” Payette National Forest. After putting the fire out, Shellworth and Mains sat down to discuss the need for a cooperative fire prevention organization to oversee the private, state, and federal lands in the area. This was the beginning of a gentleman’s agreement to protect the forests of the Boise and Payette River watersheds. This agreement launched the formal organization SITPA. In 1913, Barber Lumber Company merged with the financially stronger Payette Lumber Lumber & Manufacturing Company to become the Boise-Payette Lumber Company. Harry Shellworth continued as land agent for the new company, and as the long-time secretary for SITPA.
A Brief History of the Southern Idaho Timber Protective Association 1904 - 1994 Bill E. Williams