I thought I was fully prepared to deal with anything Mother Nature threw at me. After all, I'd already dealt my fair share of tornadoes, typhoons, earthquakes, sand storms and floods before my family and I moved to southern Idaho 11 years ago.
At that point, I figured the only thing I hadn't dealt with was the proverbial plague of locusts.
I still remember standing outside that afternoon and watched the ominous, black cloud roll toward Mountain Home. It seemed out of place since the rest of the sky was fairly clear, and I figured it was a small rain cloud that might drop a little bit of rain before it dissipated.
That's when the smell hit me — that acrid odor of something burning. That was followed fairly quickly by even darker clouds of smoke that started to blot out the sun.
It was then I knew that we were dealing with a brush fire. Since this was the first time I had dealt with something like this, I wasn't entirely sure what to do.
So I did what seemed like a logical idea: I had my family start the initial steps for a possible evacuation. If memory serves, I had already pulled the cat kennel out of the garage in case we needed to round up our "feline children" at the last minute.
Fortunately, the range fire that endangered the Tipanuk community wasn't as bad as I had feared, and the danger quickly passed. But it did emphasize that we live in a part of the United States where range fires can happen without warning and can spread rapidly.
When I joined the Mountain Home News nearly eight years ago, I was shown a map that highlighted where all of the nation's range fires have originated in recent years. Southern Idaho was nearly covered in bright red, illustrating that most of these fires happened in this part of the country.
Sitting in the proverbial "bulls-eye" was the Oasis community, located a few miles to the northwest of Mountain Home.
This is why I spend time each year emphasizing the need for people to remain extra vigilant when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors. It's always my hope that it'll help prevent people from accidentally starting range fires outside of the city limits and across the county.
The state's range fire experts remain cautiously optimistic that this year's extremely wet winter and springtime rain will delay fire season — what people typically refer to as Idaho's "fifth season." In its recent report, the National Interagency Fire Center cautioned that range fires this year could grow significantly larger than normal once all the vegetation and grasses dry out after receiving so much snow and rain.
So far, we've been extremely lucky with only a handful of range fires reported since the start of the year. All of them were attributed to lightning strikes, and each of them was quickly contained.
With the Independence Day holiday just six days away, I urge all of you to remain extra vigilant when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, especially when it comes to shooting off fireworks.
Let's not have a encore performance of what happened around this time last year when a 19 year old decided to launch some illegal fireworks in the Boise foothills. He ended up starting a range fire that torched 2,600 acres and destroyed two homes.
Today, the young man responsible for starting that blaze is looking at the very real possibility of watching the lawyers wipe out his wallet as he pays for all the damage he caused.
Consider yourself warned.
Look, I understand the fascination that people have when it comes to fireworks. There are plenty of us out there that enjoy the simple pleasure of blowing things up or watching them explode into a myriad of colors.
Unfortunately, there are those out there that don't want to follow state law, which limits people to shooting off "safe and sane" fireworks — the ones that don't explode or fly more than 10 feet in the air. For some reason, these individuals seem convinced that the Fourth of July just isn't complete unless they fire off a couple of "real crowd pleasers" from the comfort of their backyard or — even worse — outside city limits.
It's not really hard to get your hands on those types of fireworks. It's not even a black market sale.
There are places across the state that carry them in plain sight. All you do is sign a piece of paper that says you agree to take them out of state and light them somewhere else.
I'm sure you're also supposed to wink your eye and cross your fingers behind your back when you sign that paper.
However, that signed document simply absolves the vendor from any criminal liability and puts the blame squarely on those who bought them. But as we've seen in previous years, there are some people around here that just don't care.
Instead of ruining the Fourth of July for everyone, do yourself a favor and come out to the city's fireworks show at the Desert Canyon Golf Course instead. Hosted every year by the city fire department, you'll have front-row seats to the greatest show in this part of the state.
I think it's far better than paying the consequences of trying to improvise your own fireworks show and end up causing more trouble than you could possibly expect.
— Brian S. Orban