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Paying the Price for Man-Made Wildfires

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By DeSiree Fawn

Sun Valley, Idaho - ( KMVT-TV / KSVT-TV ) - Firefighters in Blaine County recently put out a large wildfire, started by teenagers playing with fireworks. As wildfire season blazes on, costs are rising. Not only are these fires dangerous, they’re expensive. In the case of wild fires accidently started by humans, it might surprise you who ends up picking up the tab.

“You can be held accountable, you can be held responsible and it’s going to come down to, you know, ultimately the responsible party. Even if they have to go through the parents for that,” said Craig Aberbach, Hailey Fire Chief.

In addition to fireworks, fire officials say there are several other ways these fires can occur.

“Vehicles pulling trailers or something comes off the trailer and doesn’t completely, detaches, and then causes sparks. It’s happening. The fire seasons are getting longer. And the summertime, with that fire season, it really taxes our resources to be able to fight these fires,” said Charlie Butterfield, Assistant Fire Chief for the City of Sun Valley Fire Department.

With so many fire departments working together, costs are split. During the most recent fire, Bellevue spent over $6000 and it cost other stations as well.

“As far as the Hailey Fire Department, we responded and assisted the Wood River Fire Department as well as many other local departments. And the impact it had on my budget was over $17,000, which included personal time, our full time staff, plus our volunteers, the cost of any equipment that we used, the fire engine, our hoses that we lost. We had to replace a tire on one of our fire engines,” said Aberbach.

Unplanned costs, which may affect budget items in the future. Firefighters warn this year in particular is very bad for wild fires. As a result, fire and resource managers have issued Stage 1 fire restrictions for portions of the Sawtooth Valley.

The Stage 1 restrictions are designed to lower the potential for fires started by people. Across the country, over half the total acres burned are attributed to humans. The remaining acres burned on average are started by lightning. Contact your local USDA Sawtooth National Forest district office or the forest headquarters located in Twin Falls for all the information you need to stay safe and prevent forest wildfires.


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