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Fire prevention is elementary



Andrew Ottoson

Everyone who believes in personal, individual responsibility ought to know what they can do to prevent forest fire, and everyone ought to expect their neighbors to know, too. Fire safety basics should be common sense – and, in our region, they are – but not everyone acts like it.

Older generations saw most of the fires in Idaho were of natural causes, and that was true of our region last year. But in the southern part of the state, the Bureau of Land Management saw something like 60 percent of the fires on BLM land were human-caused.

A cyclist was righteously ridiculed in the national news for accidentally igniting 73 acres in addition to some toilet paper he had used beside a trail near Boise last year. Last week, a fireworks accident apparently was at the root of a Boise-area wildfire, which struck one home and threatened hundreds. While the photos remind us of the far greater catastrophe that struck our region last summer, the torching of 2,500 acres near Table Rock reportedly followed from an act of ignorance, carelessness or cowardice. An eyewitness account reported by KTVB cast suspicion on as-yet unknown people who tried to fire a shell into the midnight sky, but actually fired it into a tinderbox of dry grass near one of Boise’s major landmarks. The witness said they ran away; the wind swept the fire toward the residential areas.

We’ll leave it to the reader to judge whether the recent scofflaws shamed Boise’s name more than the public pooper – but the cyclist, at least, had the decency to come forward and pay the fine. As far as we know, he was never named, and we hope the others are found out soon.

No one could have prevented the major fires in our region last year, which were caused by a massive number of lightning strikes. Land management policy reforms perhaps will reduce risk for the future, as may be seen if the changes U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo described in a June 15 op-ed come to pass – or as we anticipate during the next three years in light of the recent Good Neighbor agreement between the Idaho Department of Lands and the Forest Service, reported June 8.

In the meantime, we need not wait on acts of Congress to once again renew our commitment to common sense.

For those of us who live near the public forests, the Forest Service, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Idaho Department of Lands, the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association, the North Central Idaho Fire Prevention Cooperative and Idaho Firewise distributed print copies of a how-to guide to home wildfire defense. It was in the June 15 Free Press. In case you missed it, the document is free online at

The agencies repeat this much every year: mind your campfire, arrest your sparks, no fireworks on public land. To that, we’d add: Have fun in the woods this summer, and be careful.


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