Wildfires keep BLM crews busy

Asks for public help to prevent summer burns

Hot, dry temperatures, lighting and human-caused wildfires have kept BLM Idaho wildland firefighters busy these past few weeks. With increased temperatures expected to continue, firefighters are asking the public to help prevent human-caused wildfires and reduce the risk that both firefighters and the public endure when suppressing preventable wildfires.

On May 10, BLM Idaho State Director Steve Ellis issued a Fire Prevention Order making it a misdemeanor to carry, discharge or otherwise use fireworks on BLM-managed lands. Violations of the order may bring fines and jail time, and violators who start wildfires can also be liable for the costs of damage and suppression.

In Idaho, humans are typically responsible for 60 percent of all wildfires on public lands managed by the BLM. The cost of putting out a large wildfire can reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars and can bring criminal charges in some cases. By taking a few simple precautions, you can avoid starting a wildfire.

Roadside fires are extremely common this time of year, and 75 percent of these fires result from mechanical or electrical failures, including malfunctions. Be particularly cautious any time you pull a trailer; ensure your tires are inflated to the proper level; and check the grease on your wheel bearings to avoid a blown tire. A safety chain dragging too low will bounce off the road surface and produce sparks. These sparks will be difficult to see as you drive, which means you may start any number of fires as you drive several miles without ever knowing what destruction you leave behind.

Avoid driving your vehicle off the road surface and into tall grasses. Catalytic converters and exhaust systems heat up to very high temperatures, easily igniting dry grasses and shrubs. Ensure that your vehicle receives routine maintenance, as this can help you avoid most of the problems that might start a fire. Periodically conduct a thorough check on your own as well. Be sure to carry extra water or a fire extinguisher with you when recreating outdoors. Practice responsible use of OHVs and ATVs.

Be especially careful with all outdoor equipment use. This includes chain saws, welding equipment and portable generators. Use spark arrestors, and keep water handy in case you do start a fire.

Enjoying a campfire adds to many outdoor experiences, but the devastating effects of an escaped campfire could last for many years. Never leave a campfire unattended and take the proper steps to completely extinguish your campfire before you leave your campsite.

For information on being fire safe outdoors, visit: http://www.smokeybear.com/be-smart-outdoors.asp.

It is important to prepare your home by clearing debris and removing dead plant material. Avoid stacking firewood directly against buildings. Plant fire-resistant flowers, trees and shrubs around your property. Visit www.idahofirewise.org for more tips on how to protect your home from wildfire damage and for a list of fire-resistant plant species. Think before you go outdoors this summer. Act to protect your home and property from wildfires.


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