Each year before the Independence Day holiday, the Mountain Home News normally takes time to remind people to remain extra vigilant when it comes to using fireworks. In addition to preventing injuries, our hope is to prevent people from accidentally starting range fires outside of the city limits and across the county.
However, this year's advisory comes at a critical time for communities across our county. Fire season -- what people typically refer to as Idaho's "fifth season" -- started nearly a month ahead of schedule.
Damage to date has already passed the half million dollar mark, and we're all hoping it doesn't get much worse. At least three families in the Mountain Home area lost their homes during last week's fast-moving range fire -- one of them escaping the flames with little more than the clothes on their backs.
While the loss of someone's home is traumatic enough, we're fortunate no one was seriously hurt in that fire.
But that could change after the next range fire starts. For those of us who've lived here long enough, it's not a question of "if" it'll happen but "when" it will and how bad it'll get.
This year's fire season got off to a really horrible start, and it's expected to get much worse. According to a report released last month by the Bureau of Land Management, this year's fire season is expected to be the worst that we've seen in 30 years.
Lighter-than-average snowfall, combined with the high winds we've dealt with in recent weeks, dried out most of the grass lands and sage brush and turned it into an enormous tinderbox. All it'll take is for someone to get careless or get distracted for just a moment and we'll have a range fire that could make the ones we've already seen pale in comparison.
This is why the cities of Mountain Home, Glenns Ferry along with land covered by the Mountain Home Fire District enacted a burn ban last week. Simply put, if you try to burn something, regardless of the reason, expect to pay a healthy fine.
Here's the bottom line: If you start a fire, you could be held financially responsible for the costs of putting it out. Sometimes, those costs can exceed several thousand dollars depending on the severity of the blaze. So besides wiping out valuable wildlands because you were careless, you would end up wiping out your pocketbook as well.
As the fire season continues, let's all remember to remain extra careful when we're traveling on the desert or in the forests. In addition, if you choose to go camping or recreating in the mountains, make concern for fire one of your highest priorities.
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With a week remaining before we celebrate the Fourth of July, we expect many people in this community to celebrate with a bang -- literally. Sales of fireworks are expected to start this week in places like Mountain Home with people shelling out money for something special.
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. However, 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. That piece of paper simply absolves the vendor from any criminal liability and puts the blame squarely on those who bought them. But as history proves, there are some people that just don't care.
Instead of ruining the Fourth of July for everyone, come out to the city's fireworks show at the Desert Canyon Golf Course instead. This one will be very special because nearly half of the golf course will open up for spectators next Wednesday. You'll have front-row seats to the greatest show in this part of the state.
We 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