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Sawtooth National Forest Warns Of Human Caused Fires

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By Paul Johnson

Twin Falls, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KSVT-TV ) - The Sawtooth National Forest says the fire season started much sooner than normal this summer with the Gold Fire on June 3rd and the Hell Roaring Fire on July 4th. Both fires burned through mountain pine beetle killed lodgepole pine. At least two factors contributed to the size and intensity of these early Highway 75 fires in the Sawtooth Valley; warmer than normal early summer temperatures and drier than average fuel conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmoshperic Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Drought Mitigation Center nearly all of Southern Idaho is experiencing abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions at this time. These dry hot conditions have reduced the fuel moisture percent in dead trees to a point lower than that of kiln-dried lumber found at local lumberyards.

As a result, fire and resource managers have decided to implement Stage 1 fire restrictions for portions of the Sawtooth National Forest starting July 17th, because the opportunity for large intense fires is just too frightening. 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. These statistics come from the National Interagency Fire Center based in Boise, which has tracked ignition sources and acres burned from the year 2000 to 2013.

Fighting wildland fires is extremely dangerous and very expensive at any time of the year. By throwing in variables like dry fuels and above normal temperatures, the formula for disaster increases ten-fold. Local forest customers and tourists alike must both be part of the solution when it comes to preventing wildland fire. Adhering to restrictions and staying informed is a must for all forest users. 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, prevent wildfires, and leave a green forest for your next visit.


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