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$84,500 billed to parent of juvenile who set Whitebird Fire

— Fire suppression costs of $84,500 will be billed to the parent of the juvenile who started a wildland blaze near White Bird earlier this summer.

This month, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) completed its investigation into the cause of the Whitebird Fire that started July 7 and burned more than 420 acres of grazing land and brush. Fire investigators determined the unidentified juvenile started the fire while igniting a mortar-style firework in very dry fuels.

Information on the juvenile involved was redacted from IDL documents requested by the Free Press. Whether the matter will be charged as a crime would be the determination of the Idaho County Prosecutor’s Office.

As per Idaho law (Idaho Code 38-107) requires any person willfully or negligently igniting a fire on forest or rangeland in Idaho to be billed for the costs of suppressing the fire. In this instance, lighting mortar shells and fireworks or throwing away lighted material such as cigarettes in forests or rangeland during the closed fire season constitutes negligent behavior (Idaho Code 38-117).

“People, not lightning, have started more than two-thirds of the fires on lands protected by the Idaho Department of Lands so far this year,” State Forester David Groeschl said. “Fire managers strongly encourage Idahoans of all ages to be careful not to start needless wildfires that threaten lives, property, and resources.”

Initial attack was carried out by IDL personnel with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Idaho Timber Protective Association (SITPA), Salmon River Rural Fire Department, White Bird Fire Department, Idaho County Sheriff and the Idaho State Police. A 20-member hand crew and four engines were required to battle the blaze.

IDL fire investigations have resulted in a number of suppression bills sent to private individuals or businesses. Data from IDL (year and number of suppression bills): 2013, 10 bills; 2014, six bills; 2015, four bills; and 2016, six bills. According to IDL, it often takes several years before full payment is received from a business or individual. 


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