Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Burning Ban Imposed to Help Prevent a Summer of Fires
Wood River Fire Rescue Chief Ron Bateman captured this photo of the Quigley Fire after it erupted after midnight on Saturday, June 13.
Thursday, June 18, 2020



With a smattering of fires already scorching the Wood River Valley, Wood River Fire Rescue plans to suspend open burning June 20 through Oct. 20.

To reduce confusion and afford more safety to the community, the department plans to enact a similar ban every year going forward, although the weather may move either date a little this way or that.

The acrid smoke from the Quigley Fire woke some Hailey residents up. Residents of Indian Creek said they, too, could smell it that morning.

“Our crews have been very busy this season, and we’ve hardly just begun,” said WRFR Chief Ron Bateman.

Bateman said the measure isn’t a punitive one, given that most landowners are “incredibly responsible” with burning. The area extends as far south of Baseline Road—most of the requests for burning come from farmers and ranchers.

Given this year’s short notice, a shift officer could make an exception on a case-by-case basis until June 26.

“This is first and foremost about safety,” said Bateman. “Wildland fires are a labor-intensive reality. Our crews are behind the curve before they’ve left the station. Everything I do is in an effort to affect safety for our responders and the community.”

Helicopters were used to fight the Quigley Fire.

Though it’s just mid-June Blaine County has already seen at least five wildfires. In addition, citizens called in a couple campfires left unattended in Bullion Gulch and Democrat Gulch in Croy Canyon west of Hailey.

Firefighters have fought two wildland fires near the junction of Highway 20 and Highway 75. And they fought two in East Fork canyon south of Ketchum.

One of those was lightning caused; the other was started by a permitted burn that was fanned out of control by gusty winds.

The latest fire started four miles northeast of Hailey in Quigley Canyon just after midnight on Saturday, June 13. Multiple fire departments and helicopters responded. Firefighters were able to contain the 56-acre fire on Saturday; they had it fully controlled by Sunday afternoon.

Bureau of Land Management investigators still haven’t determined whether it was the result of a campfire that got out of control, a car driving on dry grass, exploding target practice or something else. But it was determined to be human caused, according to Rebecca Flick, a fire prevention officer with the BLM.

“There was not any lightning going on that night so we can remove that from the equation,” added Bateman.

Flick said the BLM has a prevention order in effect from May 10 through Oct. 20.

During that time people are not allowed to discharge firearms on BLM property. Shooting exploding   targets are prohibited.

Right now, campfires are permitted. But they could be prohibited and other fire restrictions imposed if drying conditions warrant it, Flick said.

Flick said fire restrictions are posted on boards at BLM campgrounds  and recreationalists are always supposed to check fire restrictions at before heading out. Or, call 208-735-2060.

The Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center has predicted most of Idaho, Oregon, northern California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona could see significant wildland fire activity in July because of drought.

Idaho, Oregon, eastern Washington, western Montana and Northern California and Nevada remain poised for significant wildland fire activity in August. Most of Idaho gets a reprieve in September.

The Big Wood River is at a record low level right now. And other local streams, such as Lake Creek, are all but dried up when they normally would offer fishing throughout the summer.

Grasses and other vegetation in popular hiking areas like Greenhorn are also dry and crackly, mirroring conditions of August and September.

Even rains that have fallen in the past couple days have not targeted all areas of the Wood River Valley equally.


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