Friday, July 18, 2014

Fire danger very high in SNRA

Building unapproved fires can lead to big fines

Express Staff Writer

     The U.S. Forest Service has issued Stage 1 fire restrictions for a large portion of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which means campers must refrain from building unapproved fires or smoking in unapproved areas, or face fines of up to $10,000 and/or six months in prison.

     Fires can only be started at campground fire pits approved by the Forest Service near Alturas, Pettit, Redfish and Stanley lakes, and at Trap Creek, Sheep Trail, Iron Creek and Chemeketan campgrounds.

     The restricted area includes hundreds of square miles of backcountry extending from Galena Summit north on the west side of Highway 75 to Trap Creek northwest of Stanley. The western border of the restriction area is a jagged county line that snakes along the ridge of the Sawtooth Mountain range.

     Liquid petroleum cooking stoves can be used in the restricted area.

     “The reason we are doing this is because the area is unusually dry, the fuels are ready, and all it takes is an ignition source to start a fire,” said Forest Service information officer Vince Urbina.

     Urbina said there have already been two human-caused fires in that area already this summer, the Hell Roaring Fire and the Gold Fire.

     “Over half of all fires are human-caused. We have found already a higher than usual number of fires in this area that have already been abandoned, some of them still burning.” he said.

     The restriction prohibits igniting, maintaining, building, attending or using a fire outside a fire structure that is provided by the Forest Service within a designated site.

     The restriction also prohibits smoking outside an enclosed vehicle or building in the restricted area.

     Smokers can smoke in any area surrounded by a clearing 3 feet in diameter free of combustible materials.

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