On Monday, the Mountain Home community will pause to commemorate our nation's 240th birthday during this year's Independence Day celebration. People will pack into Carl Miller Park for a day of music, food and entertainment.
I invite all of you to take time out of the day and stop by the park to join the celebration, regardless if you're new to the community or you've been here a long time. There's a lot of work that happens behind the scenes to make this event so successful, and I think you'll enjoy what this festival has to offer.
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. Those number of seats grew tremendously in recent years after the viewing area at the Desert Canyon Golf Course 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 kick you in the gut, 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 some dangerously high levels, which is on par for this time of year. As we've seen so far this month, it's not taking much to turn a patch of dry grass, sagebrush or cheat grass into a full-blown fire.
We've been extremely lucky to date, and the range fires we've seen around here remained fairly small. I have to credit our local firefighters, 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 human carelessness or one lightning strike, and we could end up with a blaze that could rival the Soda Fire last summer, which torched nearly 280,000 acres -- more than 437 square miles in western Idaho and eastern Oregon.
Along the same token, I don't think there's anyone in this county who wants to see a repeat of the 2012 fire season. The Trinity Ridge Fire reduced 150,000 acres of prime national forest land in the mountains north of Mountain Home to burned rubble.
As that fire raged out of control, this newspaper was debating the real possibility that it was going to end up writing "obituaries" on the mountain communities of Atlanta and Rocky Bar as the fire approached both towns. Those of us in the editorial department breathed a heavy sigh of relief when fire crews held the line and saved both towns.
Then there was the Pony and Elk Complex fires a year later that devastated northern half of our county. Together, those two fires were responsible for destroying more than 70 buildings and prime feeding range for cattle while charring the forests from Prairie through Lester Creek and continued to the doorstep of Pine.
Those who lived in this county during those two years remember how bad it got. In addition to people losing their homes and cabins, ranchers in the hardest hit areas also lost their livestock.
Others not directly impacted by the fires had to contend with the smoke that billowed across Mountain Home and surrounding areas for weeks. The smoke blanketed the area for weeks, causing those with asthma, severe allergies and other health issues to remain indoors until conditions improved.
We entered this year's fire season on a fairly positive note after a fairly wet winter that provided plenty of needed moisture following years of drought conditions. However, that came with a bit of mixed news since all the vegetation that grew from all this rain and snow is quickly drying out in the lower elevations.
A statement released last week by the Idaho Department of Lands said the onset of very hot temperatures has increased the potential for larger fires in Idaho this summer. With the wildfire season officially underway, the department has already forward deployed its air tankers in designated areas in hopes to staying ahead of the anticipated range fires.
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. Period.
In addition to getting in a lot of trouble, you stand a good chance of ruining other people's holiday plans. This includes our firefighters, who work so hard to make the community's Independence Day so special.
Let's show our firefighters how much we appreciate them by using good judgment by following the rules when it comes to using fireworks. We don't want to ruin their chances to watch their own show because someone decided to ignore the law as well as common sense. Let's enjoy the Fourth of July, but let's do it safely.
-- Brian S. Orban