While thousands of Idahoans prepare to spend their 4th of July in the extremely dry Boise National Forest , fire watchers won't have much time to celebrate the holiday as they wait and watch anxiously for the next brush fire to ignite and spread.
“We are currently at an all-time record high for dry conditions in the Boise National Forest. At the current fire danger level, we are well over the typical threshold for large fires,” said Boise National Forest Fire Chief, Bob Shindelar.
On average, more than 114 forest fires occur within the Boise National Forest limits each year, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of precious soil in the process. Whether the fires were started by super-heated lightning or by the irresponsibility of campers, these fires have burned up to 346,000 acres of Idaho land in a single season.
“'Situational awareness' is utilizing all of your senses and being aware of what your current location is; your surroundings, the conditions in terms of weather, the vegetation – is it green and lush or tall, dry grass? - really paying attention to all of those things that can start fires.” Shindelar told the Boise Weekly.
Though the National Forest contains over 250 natural bodies of water, the impact from the early snow melts of this winter season has caused an increased drought in this desert terrain, making the risk of ignition even greater. In order to prevent the destruction of forest fires within Boise’s diverse landscape, forest managers have urged the public to practice what they call "situational awareness" while commemorating this year’s 4th of July.
“When people leave their home for the mountains, that situational awareness becomes important in a new environment to fully realize potential hazards for their personal or fire safety,” said David Olson, Boise National Forest Public Affairs Officer.
With fireworks being one of the leading causes for public and forest fires, the City of Boise has taken some extra precautionary steps to ensure firework safety. This year, law enforcement officers plan to be on high alert for the use or possession of illegal fireworks in public areas. Within city limits, the use of “safe and sane fireworks” sold at local fireworks stands will be permitted, however, once you leave the city limits any use of any type of firework, sane or otherwise, will result in a fine of up to $5000 and/or up to 6 months in jail.
“Some of the things that people to need to always bring with them, from a safety standpoint, is water to drink or potentially put out fires, you should have a shovel to extinguish small fires, a good first aid kit that is well stocked, bring a cell phone so you have some means of communication, and always be prepared for mountain type weather in terms of clothes,” Shindelar told BW.
The Forest Service has provided a short list of fire prevention and recreational safety tips for those planning to leave the city for the weekend:
•Extinguish all campfires completely, do not leave open-flames unattended.
•Observe your surrounding locations. E.G. temperature, topography, nearby flora, etc.
•When towing a trailer, check all safety chains for potential dragging. The sparks created can ignite the roadside brush.
•Check your tire pressure to avoid blowouts on the road.
•Make sure there are no flammable liquids leaking from any motorized vehicles.
•Be cautious of increased wind speeds and areas with snag trees.
•Use a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) when off-roading. The MVUM will designate safe trails to ride on.
•Know the fire laws.
"We're pleased to see a new era on the horizon for Idahoans with developmental disabilities. Hopefully this settlement will bolster the voice of these Idahoans, while also permanently protecting their constitutional rights."