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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Unhealthy smoke and large wildfires call for increased safety awareness


BOISE, Idaho – Following a few passing storms over the weekend, some of the smoke in the Treasure Valley has cleared and blue skies have begun to return. This is a welcome relief from the past 7-10 days, when air quality conditions in Idaho ranged from unhealthy to very unhealthy. The smoke and unhealthy air were the result of wildfires in Idaho and neighboring states. While some of these fires were started naturally by lightning, many of them were human-caused and preventable.

The thick grass that grew in spring and summer of 2017, along with dead woody debris in forested areas, have created conditions for the long-lasting fires that blanketed Idaho communities with smoke. Although fires caused by lightning usually decrease in the fall, an abundance of dry fuels makes our landscape more susceptible to fire if an ignition occurs.

Fortunately, there are steps everyone can take to reduce human-caused wildfires and the threat of dangerous wildfires and unhealthy smoke.

Roadside starts are one of the major causes of wildfires in Idaho. Before driving onto public lands, make sure vehicles and trailers are properly maintained by ensuring the safety chain is not dragging, wheel bearings are well greased, and tires are inflated to the proper level to help prevent a blowout. Sparks can be thrown from a vehicle or trailer that is not properly maintained, causing roadside fires without the driver’s knowledge. Exhaust systems can reach up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, and pulling off the road and parking on dry grass can ignite a wildfire.

Hunting season is upon us and cool morning temperatures often mean building a fire for warmth. Make sure to completely extinguish all campfires before leaving campsites. Fires left unattended or not completely extinguished have been known to cause wildfires when embers fly outside of the fire ring. Weather can also warm up in the afternoon, creating conditions for grass or brush fires.

Fire officials are urging Idahoans to enjoy their time outdoors and the many recreation opportunities our public lands offer, but also to be attentive and report wildfires or suspicious activity immediately. If you see something, say something by contacting your local fire agency or by dialing 9-1-1.

Early reporting means fires can be extinguished when they are small, making firefighters’ jobs easier. It takes everyone’s help to make sure that we “Keep Idaho Green.”  Educating your family and friends about the risk unwanted wildfire poses to Idaho’s rangeland and forest ecosystems is one of the best ways to reduce fires in our state.

For the most current fire restrictions and wildfire information visit: http://www.idahofireinfo.com, call the Idaho Fire Restrictions Hotline at 1-844-433-4737, and follow us on Twitter @BLMIdahoFire.
Air Quality information can be found on the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality webpage at: http://www.deq.idaho.gov/air-quality/monitoring.aspx