In just a couple of days, the Mountain Home community will pause to commemorate the birth of our nation during this year's Fourth of July celebration. On Saturday, people will pack into Carl Miller Park for a day of music, food and entertainment.
For those new to the community, I invite you to take time out of the day to stop by the park to join the celebration. There's a lot of work that happens behind the scenes to make this event so successful, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what this festival has to offer.
This year will be extra special as we will welcome the Air National Guard Band of the West Coast to our Independence Day festivities. Based out of California, they will bring a unique blend of Latin Rock as well as traditional rock 'n' roll as they perform throughout the afternoon.
If you've never seen an Air Force ensemble perform, I strongly recommend taking time out of your day and listening to these performances. I think you'll appreciate the hard work, dedication and talent these musicians bring to the stage.
But it doesn't stop there. Later that evening, the community will get to see one of southern Idaho's largest fireworks shows from practically in their own backyard. The Mountain Home Fire Department, which conducts the show each year, has spent the last several months collecting money during various fundraisers to make this show possible.
You'll also have some of the best seats in the house, so to speak. Over the past couple of years, the viewing area at the Desert Canyon Golf Course has greatly expanded to get people as close as possible to the action while keeping things safe.
Available seating at the golf course includes the entire front nine, including the seventh fairway near the canal that separates the front and back nine holes. It's close enough that when the shells explode overhead, you can definitely feel the boom, which just adds to the overall experience.
Speaking of fireworks, this brings me to an important point I touched on last week. When celebrating the Fourth of July, I urge everyone to be extra careful, regardless if you're staying in your backyard or heading off into the mountains this weekend.
The temperatures across southern Idaho have reached extreme levels and are well above average for this time of year. As we've seen so far, it's not taking much to turn a patch of dry grass or sagebrush into a full-blown fire.
We've been extremely lucky to date, and the range fires we've seen in this part of the state have been fairly small. I have to credit our local firefighters and crews with the Bureau of Land Management, who reached these fires quickly and knocked them down before they got out of control.
But that could change rapidly. All it takes is a moment of carelessness or one lightning strike and we could end up with a blaze that could rival the Trinity Ridge fire in 2012 and the Pony and Elk Complex fires a year later.
Information released last week by the Idaho Department of Lands left me feeling less than optimistic.
The data showed that very hot temperatures, combined with very dry weather, is rapidly drying out heavy fuel loads across the state, which only increases the fire potential. They added that low snowpack, combined with low soil moisture during the winter, contributed to range conditions in May and June that fire managers don't usually see until July, state officials said.
In addition, most of the nearly 75 fires state firefighters dealt as of June 23 were caused by people; not lightning. Among the leading causes were controlled burns that got out of hand, fires triggered by equipment and people shooting at targets.
This is why I have to once again emphasize the need for people to be extra cautious when they choose to shoot off fireworks or set up a campfire this weekend. If you shoot off fireworks, make sure you have a bucket of water or garden hose within arm's reach just in case a sparkler or other pyrotechnics decides to ignite something other than what people had intended.
When it comes to using fireworks that are illegal in this state (although you can still buy them over the counter), I have one final message: Don't use them here. In addition to getting in a lot of trouble, you stand a good chance of ruining other people's holiday plans.
This includes our local firefighters, who work so hard to make the community's Independence Day so special. There have only been a few instances in recent years where these men and women were able to fully enjoy the city's annual fireworks show without having to scramble to fight a fire because someone decided to ignore the law and common sense.
Let's enjoy the Fourth of July, but let's enjoy it safely.
-- Brian S. Orban