Until Thursday afternoon, the 2012 wildfire season had been unfolding, starkly, in parched Western states such as Colorado and Utah.
That changed with sudden swiftness, as the Charlotte Fire rapidly spread across more than 1,000 dry acres of grass, juniper and brush in the foothills about five miles south of Pocatello. Initially, some 1,700 people were evacuated. Ultimately, the fire destroyed 66 homes and caused $7.2 million in damage. The only comforting statistic, the good news in this otherwise awful story, is that no residents or firefighters were injured or killed.
For Idahoans, especially those who choose to live in the “urban interface” abutting wild country, last week brought one more reminder of the devastating power of wildfire.
But as our hearts go out to the Pocatello fire victims, we have to ask whether this fire was preventable.
The Charlotte Fire remains under investigation. At first, officials said the fire was human-caused, although they didn’t elaborate. At a town meeting Sunday night, Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said the cause was unknown, according to the Idaho State Journal.
Regardless of what a multiagency investigation yields, take the Charlotte Fire as a reminder to be responsible — especially in the Foothills, and especially during the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.
Know your local fireworks regulations before you buy. In Boise, for example, “safe and sane” fireworks are allowed within city limits, but all fireworks are illegal in the Foothills.
Breaking the fireworks rules isn’t harmless fun. It’s reckless. You’re putting yourself in danger, and you’re putting your neighbors’ lives and property at risk. Surely, there’s a better, smarter way to celebrate our nation’s birthday.