Friday, July 3, 2009

Fire season is upon us

Crews contain small fire at Redfish; fireworks banned on public lands

Express Staff Writer

Land managers are hoping to avoid scenes like this one from previous summers, where brush fires were started from seemingly innocent behavior. Fireworks are banned on all public lands in Idaho. Photo by Mountain Express

Firefighters quickly contained a wildfire near the Sockeye Campground at Redfish Lake Tuesday evening.

The blaze, the first of the season in the Sawtooth National Forest, was reported at 5 p.m., June 30. According to a news release from the U.S. Forest Service, the fire is thought to be human-caused because no lightning had been reported in the area.

The one-acre blaze is currently under investigation.

Various firefighting apparatus and firefighters were called to control the blaze, which was declared contained at 9 p.m., the news release states. The road into the popular campground and lake south of Stanley was temporarily closed.

Both Redfish Lake Lodge and surrounding campgrounds in the area remain open to the public.

Forest officials are using the incident to remind recreationists to make sure to watch their campfires and have a bucket, shovel and water ready in case their fire gets out of control over the Fourth of July weekend.

Forest officials are asking people to make sure their campfires are out whenever they leave their campsite. Campers should make sure the fire ring is cool to the touch.

Fire officials are also reminding campers that fireworks are not permitted on any public lands in Idaho. People can be fined for having fireworks in their possession while on public lands, the news release states.

The rules prohibiting the use of fireworks on public lands covers lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Department of Lands. Those violating the rules can incur fines and jail time, and violators who start wildfires can also be liable for the costs of damage and fire suppression efforts.

"We should not have to risk firefighters' lives in putting out preventable wildfires," said Tom Dyer, director of the Idaho BLM.

The use of incendiary bullets, tracer ammunition and exploding targets are also prohibited on public lands in Idaho, a news release from the BLM states.

"People need to be aware of what kind of ammunition they are shooting to ensure they are shooting at a safe target in a safe area," said Leonard Wehking, the state fire management officer for the Idaho BLM.

According to the BLM, a normal snowpack and a mild spring have kept Idaho's fire season in check so far, but increased temperatures will quickly dry out vegetation in the state, making it ready to burn.

"It only takes a microscopic spark to start a wildfire that will spread quickly," Wehking said.

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