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Fire Season: The Fat Lady Still Isn't Singing

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It's late in the year, but fire season is still not over

September arrived like a breath of fresh air... literally. For most of August, North Idaho and western Montana looked like Mordor, with invisible mountains, blood red sunshine, and air quality in the danger range even for those who don’t have breathing issues. But a couple of rain storms and cooler temperatures brought a respite from the forest fire-derived smoke that plagued the area, cooling fears of forest flames.

Now, as we go to press, that smoke is back in some places, albeit not quite as heavy, reminding us that fires are still burning and will likely smolder in the forests until a foot or so of snow blankets them for a while. Warm, daytime temperatures combined with wind periodically causes these fires to flame up once again, and area residents should remain cautious and informed about what’s going on in their area.

The fire information number for North Idaho is (208) 765-7383. For information in Sanders County, call John Head, fire information officer for the Cabinet Ranger District, at (406) 827-3533 (ext. 0738). 

When preparing for winter, please remember that fire danger remains fairly high. As the nights dip below freezing, a toasty fire in the wood stove is welcome, and an approved spark arrestor on your chimney is a must. 

If you plan to burn yard debris, you might consider delaying that job as long as possible. When you do burn, check first to make sure burn restrictions are not in place, and be sure you have a plentiful water supply handy to keep the fire under control. Even if there are no fire restrictions, do not burn on a windy day. The “clear area” around your burn pile should equal twice the height of your pile; even better, use a burn barrel with a screen over the top. When burning is completed, thoroughly drench your pile with water, raking through it several times to ensure the water saturates the pile. Then check it frequently over the next several days to ensure that burning hasn’t begun again.

Be aware that if your fire gets out of control and has to be put out by authorities... you are liable for the cost!

Honestly, given the fire season we’ve had, it seems like it would be a good idea to just hold off on the burning. And I say this with a pile in my back yard that I’ve been waiting to burn since May. Waiting a few more months is not going to hurt.

Before heading into the woods to hunt or hike, please double check on closure areas, and remember that in areas where fire has burned, danger awaits. Beware of ash pits underneath trees, and the potential for falling snags from any tree that shows evidence of burning.

Whether hunting, hiking or cutting firewood, always carry a shovel and bucket in your vehicle—it’s the law during the official fire season, and common sense at all other times. And report the source of any smoke you may see.

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Author info

Trish Gannon Trish Gannon Owner and publisher of the River Journal since 2001, Trish works out of Clark Fork on the east end of Bonner County, a place she calls, simply, "the best place in the world to live." Mother of three, grandmother of two and an inveterate volunteer, Trish is usually tired.

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Homepage, Headlines, fire, forest fire, John Head, Cabinet Ranger District

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