Foothills fire could prove costly for biker who burned toilet paper

The mountain biker whose attempt to burn toilet paper ended up scorching 73 acres in the Foothills in July could be required to pay for all or part of the cost of fighting the blaze, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman said Thursday.

Those costs, which included four air tankers and three helicopters, are likely to fall in the $50,000 to $75,000 range, BLM Boise District spokeswoman Carrie Bilbao said, but the final tally could be higher once all the costs from various firefighting agencies are detailed. The fire in the Hulls Gulch area required an intensive, multi-agency attack to keep it away from hillside homes.

“By the act of burning toilet paper in hot, dry conditions ... there appears to be negligence,” Bilbao said, and that is the basis on which the agency seeks recovery of costs.

The fire broke out July 22 off the Crestline Trail, and the bicyclist who sparked the blaze came forward the next morning. Investigators also found evidence at the scene, Bilbao said. The man’s name has not been released.

The mountain biker, who was trying to burn his toilet paper in a ravine, reported he was unable to extinguish the fire and didn’t have a cell phone with him to report it, Bilbao said in July. He ran into someone on the trail who said they had reported it, she said.

The process of determining exact costs and pursuing collection is a slow one with many steps, Bilbao said. It will likely be early next year before the mountain biker receives a “notice of suspected trespass” in the mail, she said.

After that, the man will have 21 days to meet with a field manager and discuss whether he was negligent, she said. The mountain biker’s side of the story will help managers determine how much he should pay, she said. One option would be a payment plan, she said.

The BLM used the July fire as an example of fire-prevention protocol.

“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 said in a news release.

At least one similar toilet paper-involved fire has happened on BLM land, Bilbao said.