BOISE – Several new wildfires have broke out in southwest Idaho over the past couple of days, but so far it's been a pretty slow year in the Boise National Forest when it comes to the dangerous dry lightning.
The Pine Creek Fire burning in the forest northeast of Boise is believed to have been human caused. There are several reasons for human-caused fires, but one type is very preventable.
Campfires, left unattended, are the number one reason for human-caused fires in the mountains. And if we remember to put them out completely, we can stop a lot of fires before they begin.
Using a controlled setting, Ellen Dunlap, a fire prevention officer with the Boise National Forest, helped start a fire to show the proper way to put them out.
"All it takes is some kind of heat, some kind of ignition source," said Dunlap.
We all know that it's not wise to leave a fire unattended, but once the flames have died and the smoke is no longer billowing people do leave those fires. In fact, Dunlap says every year, there's an average of 300 fires abandoned and not put out correctly.
"Abandoned campfires are the primary problem with human-caused fires," said Dunlap.
That's why Dunlap says use water and a shovel to mix up the embers.
"The chances are you're going to need more water,” said Dunlap. “If it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave.”
That's her rule of thumb; if you can't touch it, don't leave it.
"If you feel any kind of heat in there, don't leave it. More water, more stirring, more water," said Dunlap.
While abandoned campfires are the primary reason for human-caused fires, trailers fall number two. Dragging chains causing sparks along the roadway starts a wildfire just about every year.
"Anytime there are dry fuels and there's a spark, you're going to have a fire," said Dunlap. "As dry as we are right now, it's very easy for it to take off."
So shorten the chains and don't let them drag. Dunlap says a lot of this comes down to paying attention.
"Everyone needs to stop and think about what can happen if there's any kind of spark or any kind of fire left unattended," said Dunlap.
The third most common type of human-caused fires is from equipment that creates a spark from metal on metal, or metal on rocks. The fourth reason is discarded cigarettes.