Careless Visitors Put Sawtooth National Recreation Area at Risk


By Paul Johnson

TWIN FALLS, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KSVT-TV ) – The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is extremely dry and very vulnerable to wildfire. The forest is about one month ahead of the dryness normally expected for this time of year. The area is heavily used by Idahoans and visitors from all over the world who are unaware of the hazardous fire conditions that exist here. To date all wildfires on the NRA this year have been caused by recreational visitors.

Lodgepole pine mortality over the past 15 years caused by mountain pine beetle has left a vast expanse of dead fuel in the Sawtooth Valley and Stanley Basin. This epidemic has created an immense load of available fuel for an escaped campfire. A fire burning in this kind of fuel will burn in the crowns of trees, spread by aerial spotting, and be exceptionally difficult dangerous and expensive to fight.

“The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is one of the most spectacular places in Idaho and many people all over Idaho and the world have a special place in their hearts for it”, said Kelly Lewis, Fire Prevention and Education Specialist with the NRA. “I moved here 11 years ago and have not found a reason to leave. I am constantly reminded of how beautiful and special it is every time I make my way over Galena Summit.

“In the last few months we have found an inexcusable number of abandoned campfires on the Forest. Please never leave your campfire unattended. Responsible fire users will keep a water bucket and a shovel handy. Mix water into the ashes. Use bare hands to feel for heat. When a visitor leaves their campsite, the fire should be wet and cold to the touch.

“We want the recreation area to be beautiful for everyone’s next visit. I want to welcome our visitors and encourage everyone to do their part to help us protect our treasured places. Everyone should take the time to find out the local fire restrictions that are in effect on the Sawtooth and wherever they may camp this summer. The fine for an unattended campfire or building an illegal fire during restriction starts at $225. Please do you part so the only fires we have to manage are the inevitable and unpreventable fires started by lightning.”

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