A mountain biker trying to burn the toilet paper he left in a ravine sparked the fire that burned 73 acres of brush and grass in the Foothills Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Boise District reported Thursday.
The man came forward Thursday morning and was cited for causing a fire, which generally carries a fine of $250, BLM spokeswoman Carrie Bilbao said. He also could be held responsible for suppression costs, she said, but that has not been determined.
Those costs haven't been calculated yet, but they're likely to be pretty high, "in the thousands," Bilbao said. Four air tankers, three helicopters and numerous ground firefighters worked through Wednesday afternoon and evening to keep the fire from spreading across the Foothills into neighborhoods. Four fire trucks, two from BLM and two from the Boise Fire Department, stayed on the scene through the night.
"You shouldn't burn toilet paper in the Foothills because of the conditions, but he did come forward," Bilbao said. The man's name has not been released.
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Investigators found evidence at the scene indicating what happened, she said, plus a bike repair kit and other personal items the bicyclist left behind “in haste, trying to get out.”
"He said he did try to put the fire out but didn't have means to call at the time,” Bilbao said. “ He ran into someone on the trail who said they’d reported it."
Several people reported the fire about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday off the Crestline Trail, she said. The trail system in the area provided natural fuel breaks, and crews were able to contain the fire by 8 p.m.
Bilbao said the cause of this fire was unusual but not unprecedented. At least one similar toilet paper-involved fire has happened on BLM land, she said.
In a news release Thursday, the BLM said “The Hull fire could have been prevented by following some simple guidelines: bury human waste; do not burn toilet paper in dry grass and on public lands; pack it in, pack it out.” The agency also reminded area residents that the fire danger in the Foothills is still high, despite recent rain. Grass is a one-hour fuel, which means after a rain it only takes about an hour to dry out.