Wildfire risk about normal for Southern Idaho, which means it can burn

Scenes from the east flank of the Boise Table Rock fire

The Boise Foothills fire burns near the Morningside Heights subdivision in June 2016.
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The Boise Foothills fire burns near the Morningside Heights subdivision in June 2016.

Fire managers expect Southern Idaho to continue to be dry with fire danger rated high across the landscape.

But cooler temperatures by the end of the weekend should reduce the fire risk that led to scattered blazes across the region this week. Fire mangers say this is a normal fire season locally and nationally.

[Story: Table Rock trails closed; extent of fire damage unclear.]

“A normal fire season for us means that we will have wildfires across the Forest,” said Sean Johnson, Payette National Forest Fire Management officer. “In a normal fire season we see as many as 100 wildfires. Predicted weather over the summer months indicates that we may have large fire activity on the Forest, but the danger for large wildfire activity is less this year than it was last year.”

Use of all fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices is prohibited on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management regardless of weather conditions or holidays. Large numbers of visitors are expected to head into surrounding national forests and other recreation areas along the Snake River and other water bodies over the Fourth of July weekend and officials expect this increased activity could lead to human caused fires.

Watch as a fire-fighting helicopter pulls water from a pond in the Harris Ranch development in East Boise.

“We’re just telling people to be smart with fire,” said Brandon Hampton, a BLM public information officer in Boise.

As demonstrated by the Table Rock Fire Thursday and Sunday’s Banks Fire, the potential for wildfires is escalating and conditions are high thanks to the warm temperatures. Fire officials ask visitors to be especially careful when towing trailers or boats.

“If you plan to tow a boat or RV, please check your safety chains before heading to the forest or any major highway corridor,” said Tony DeMasters, a member of the Boise National Forest fire staff. “The chains sometimes hang too low and have the potential to spark a wildfire if they drag on the ground while towing.”

[Story: Firewise steps you can take right now to protect your home.]

They also said, when building campfires, look for a place at least 15 feet from trees, shrubs, tents or other flammable objects; be aware of low hanging branches. Don’t leave campfires unattended, and make sure they are dead out when you leave.

Firefighters battle an early morning blaze in June 2016.

Other fire-starters include all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles. If these are used without a spark-arresting device properly installed and maintained they are illegal on National Forest lands, along with the use of explosives and exploding targets.

“We had a good snowpack in the mountains this past winter, but the hot weather we had in early June quickly melted the snow in higher elevations,” said the Payette Forest’s Johnson. “Those warm temperatures increased water runoff from the mountains during late May and early June, which is not good for keeping heavy fuels wet as the heat of summer approaches.”

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker