Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eagle Homeowner: Last Summer's Fire Was a "Very Close Call"

Posted By and on Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Looking out on the thousands of green acres bordering his home on Sky High Lane in Eagle, John Thornton isn't fooled by the lovely tall green grasses. He vividly recalls last July's Highway 16 fire, which torched nearly 5,000 acres and nearly destroyed his home.

"It was a very close call," Thornton told Citydesk.

Thornton was more than happy to allow federal, state and local fire officials to use his home today as a backdrop for a media briefing on the 2011 fire season. While each firefighter pointed to Southwest Idaho's string of cool, wet weather patterns, they quickly pointed to the resulting abundancy of what they call "fine fuels."

"Fine fuels are what results after robust snowpacks and wet springs," said Ed Delgado of the National Interagency Fire Center. "The La Nina weather patterns are to blame."

Thornton's home was spared by what officials called "smart, prevention-based building."

"My home was surrounded 360 degrees by fire," said Thornton. "My son was out here when it broke out, and he told me that the flames moved two miles in less than 15 minutes."

Four of Thornton's neighbors weren't so lucky. In addition to thousands of acres turned to ash, four homes were also destroyed.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

While officials with NIFC, the Boise National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Department of Lands said the forecast for Idaho's 2011 fire season was somewhere between "below normal" and "normal," they still offered caution.

"The forecast doesn't mean we're not going to have fires," said Bob Shindelar of the Boise National Forest. "We're just not expecting an extreme number this summer."

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