Forest Service warns of danger after man burned in Idaho hot springs, dogs die

A man was hospitalized with severe burns last week after he jumped into a hot springs to save his dogs from unusually hot water, according to the Lemhi County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident occurred at Panther Creek Hot Springs, about a two-hour drive from Salmon. The springs are located east of Panther Creek, up Hot Spring Creek.

“His dogs jumped into the water. One of them succumbed rather quickly, and he jumped in to try to save the other one,” Lemhi County Sheriff Chief Deputy Steve Penner said Tuesday.

Penner said that as the man was being transported away from the scene, they encountered a Forest Service crew. The Forest Service workers radioed for an air ambulance.

Volunteer emergency personnel were also dispatched to aid the man, and the Forest Service had some EMTs, Penner said.

Penner said he’s been at the sheriff’s office for about 17 years, and he doesn’t remember any other scalding incidents at Panther Creek Hot Springs. He said the springs can get up to about 180 degrees.

“Most people will check to see how hot it is before they get in,” Penner said. In this recent incident, the dogs apparently went in the water before the man could check to see how hot it was.

On Monday, the Salmon-Challis National Forest put out word via press release and social media that Panther Creek is experiencing a temperature increase this summer.

“Forest managers urge the public to use caution when approaching the waters in this area,” the warning said. “The water may potentially be too hot for humans and their domestic animals. If, at the time of your visit, the water is near or above the boiling temperature, severe or possibly even fatal burns may occur.”

Amy Baumer, a spokeswoman for the Salmon-Challis National Forest, said forest officials had not heard of any previous issues with the public or their pets getting burned at Panther Creek.

She said a hydrology expert noted that the hot springs has water coming in from both warm and cool springs. Drought conditions may have affected the inflow of cool water, causing the temperature of the hot springs to rise, Baumer said.

Panther Hot Spring is a natural, undeveloped area, so there are no plans to put signs up to warn the public about the potentially scalding-hot water.

“We would advise people to be careful of any hot springs on our forest,” Baumer said.