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BLM urges fire awareness during outdoor activities

by Ralph Bartholdt
Staff Writer | June 25, 2020 1:00 AM

The Bureau of Land Management is asking for help to stop wildfires before they happen.

According to the federal bureau almost every wildfire that blows up in the West is caused by people, or human activities.

“Every year, human-caused wildfires comprise approximately 87% of all wildfire ignitions across the country, posing a considerable threat to public and firefighter safety,” said William Perry Pendley of the BLM. “These wildfires are preventable and this year, more than ever, our wildland firefighters need the public’s help in reducing human-caused wildfire risk.”

Last year 50,477 wildfires were reported in the U.S. compared with 58,083 wildfires in 2018, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Despite an increase in the number of fires, 4.7 million acres were burned in 2019 or about half of the 8.8 million acres burned a year earlier.

Each year the National Interagency Fire Center assesses wildfire danger throughout the country, and assesses above-normal potential. This year according to the NIFC, Idaho, Washington and Montana is expected to have above normal temperatures combined with high winds and dry vegetation, which can make for good fire conditions, according to the bureau.

Lives, property and natural resources may be threatened if there’s a wildfire, and campfires, debris burning, logging equipment, carelessly dropped cigarettes or a hot tailpipe can cause fires in natural areas, according to the BLM.

An average of 200 wildfires start in Idaho annually and most of them occur in July, according to the BLM. Wildfires burn an average of a quarter-million acres each year based on a 20-year survey.

So far this year there have been over 100 ignitions, according to BLM. The Owyhee fire in southern Idaho burned more than 2,000 acres in January.

Ada and Cassia counties have seen the most ignitions so far this year, but no wildfires are burning in Idaho.

“With a few simple precautions,” Pendley said, “We can reduce human-caused wildfires throughout the country. Fewer human-caused wildfires will allow our wildland firefighters to focus more on lightning-caused wildfires, which we cannot prevent.”

BLM wants outdoor enthusiasts to track and follow wildfire prevention orders issued by state fire agencies. Anyone living near wildlands should prepare their homes and communities for wildfire by clearing brush and debris, and cutting fire lines with a dozer or hand tools if danger seems imminent.

Even a few simple landscaping techniques can greatly improve a home’s survivability during a wildfire event, according to BLM. For more information visit the agency’s website.