Heat wave, fireworks prompt caution for July 4th holiday

A strong high pressure ridge will build over the Western United States later this week. This will bring hot temperatures to southeast Oregon and southwest Idaho starting on Friday through next week. Highs will reach or exceed 100 degrees in the lower valleys Friday through Tuesday. Be safe! Stay hydrated, limit activity and sun exposure, and keep children and pets out of parked vehicles. See video.
— National Weather Service, Boise

It’s not the equivalent of a perfect storm or a triple threat, but elements are coinciding to make the next week a major concern for Idaho firefighters. Forecasts for extremely high temperatures, dry vegetation, a four-day Fourth of July holiday and exploding fireworks increase the risk for catastrophic wildland fires.

Although the fire season in Idaho arrives slightly later than usual this year, the 100-degree temperatures predicted through Tuesday could result in a roaring start.

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise this week warned of “significant fire potential over western Idaho, northern Nevada, California, Oregon and south-central Washington through the remainder of the summer.

“Current climate projections for June by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) indicate higher probabilities of warmer-than-normal conditions for much of the West and central U.S.,” according to an NIFC report issued earlier this month.

“Temperatures for July through September are expected to be above normal for most of the U.S Precipitation is expected to remain near median with pockets of below-median precipitation over the Northwest and the southern Plains.”

At the same time, the forecast is for “very dry conditions” continuing across most of the West, except over the Northwest and northern Rockies where recent rains helped delay the onset of significant activity to late June or July.

“However, precipitation amounts were not enough to significantly raise fuel moistures and reduce drought conditions left from the very dry winter and early spring.”

“Most areas west of the Rockies, except in the far north, had very low fuel moisture, raising the probability for severe fire activity in the summer,” according to the NIFC report.

It indicated July through September will produce above-normal, significant wildland fire potential across most of Oregon and southern Washington.

Authorities say patriotic celebrations that include fireworks should be restricted to those specifically approved for Idaho. Vendors are allowed to sell fireworks that are prohibited for use in Idaho but allowed in other states.

Ada County in southwest Idaho announced this week a ban on all fireworks outside of incoporated cities. Other communities also might have restrictions on where fireworks can be deployed. If in doubt, check with local fire departments or law enforcement authorities.

The following are legal in Idaho:

Fireworks such as ground spinners, fountains, sparklers, smoke devices or snakes designed to remain on or near the ground and not to travel outside a 15-foot diameter circle or emit sparks or other burning material which land outside a 20-foot diameter circle or above a height of 20 feet. Non-aerial common fireworks do not include firecrackers, jumping jacks, or similar products.

For your safety:

  • Know which fireworks are leagal and which are not before lighting a fuse
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Read all instructions carefully.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance
    immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

Published 6-28-13