Know the dangers of recreating in wildfire ravaged areas

Know the dangers of recreating in wildfire ravaged areas


by Rick Lantz


Posted on November 7, 2013 at 11:28 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 8 at 6:21 PM

BOISE -- Wildfire season is over, but the resulitng danger is far from gone.

Area land managers say people using Idaho parks and forests need to be aware of the danger left behind after fires damage the landscape.

They say Idahoans out hunting or hiking across the state need to know how recent fires impact the landscape.

"It's part of living in Idaho, and it's something people need to be aware of," said Emily Callihan, Public Information Officer with the Idaho Department of Lands.

We are aware of Idaho's beautiful backcountry, but do we know of its hidden dangers after a countless wildfires sweep through the Gem State every summer?

"Forest fires, wildfires, range fires are a reality in the West. And along with that, you know, it's not just what happens during fire season, it's what happens following that, that people need to be aware of," said Callihan.


Colorado, like Idaho, had a tough wildfire season, and after the flames subsided came flash flooding.

Flash flooding is a grave threat in the United States, killing more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning.

This last summer, we had large fires in Idaho that burned down the vegetation and the top soil. This could cause mudslides, as well as flash flooding, and it's a recipe for disaster.

Following the summer fires north of Mountain Home and near Sun Valley, an intense rain storm caused one person to be rescued in Elmore County after a mudslide covered the road making it impassible.

Later that month another heavy rainstorm caused another mudslide trapping a family in the mountains in freezing temperatures overnight.


"It was just pouring down rain," said Steven Rice who was rescued back on October 1.

"We turned around and came back, and there was a huge mudslide. We could not get out," said his wife Heather Rice.

"I was scared. We tried to move the mudslide, but we couldn't do it. It was too big," said their son Andrew Rice.

The Rice's cell phones were no good since they were far outside of the service area, but they fortunately found a forest service guard station. The next day an Idaho National Guard helicopter was able to lift them out.

Even though that family's story had a happy ending, the danger still exists.

"Within seconds you can see a whole hillside come down, and you wouldn't have enough time to move your tent, or to get out of the way," said Callihan.

Now, forest officials are begging people who are out recreating through all seasons to be aware of the post-fire land risks.

"Particularly if you're out in the woods or out in an open area, in a rain event, there is a possibility of flash flooding, so people need to stay out of low areas. They need to stay out of stream crossings when there is weather predicted," said Callihan.

Knowing the weather conditions is even more important for people out recreating this year due to the government shutdown.


The Bureau of Land Management says when their offices closed, federal employees from Idaho were supposed to be reseeding lands burned over the summer, but were delayed for two weeks due to the shutdown.

Which means the land didn't get the attention it needed to start recovering from the summer's wildfires.