Summer’s coming: Let’s put our fires out

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North Idahoans hadn’t even been able to tear June off their calendars last year before smoke made summer miserable.

“Smoke Alarm: Washington blaze dirties local skies,” The Press headline read on June 29. Accompanying the story was a photo of Tubbs Hill with the background mountains blurred out by smoke.

And you know, it never really got better until autumn was under way. A mid-September draft horse show was canceled by the smoke. Air quality levels lingered in the unhealthy range. There were so many red-eyed humans stumbling about, you’d have thought there was an international sleep shortage or a massive marijuana giveaway.

While 2017 ended up being the worst fire season in history for the western U.S. and Canada, we should all be forgiven for thinking 2018 isn’t stacking up exactly as we’d like. May precipitation was well below normal and most of the area’s snowpack has already melted, meaning higher elevations are drier and more fire-susceptible as a result. But other than bribe Mother Nature, what can we do about it?

Actually, a lot.

According to an Idaho Department of Lands report, there were 213 Idaho wildfires on land under state protection last year. Of those, 146 were human-caused. There’s little reason to believe that the human/nature ratio was much different on lands outside IDL’s umbrella.

Beware: Fireworks. Campfires. Cigarettes flicked thoughtlessly or at least not extinguished completely. And you know, it takes just one mistake to make a mess of so much, with losses in the millions of dollars, never mind the devastating aesthetic and ecological consequences.

Don’t let your guard drop because of a good rainshower or two. Treat every single fire hazard as a potentially lethal one. Here in the heart of outdoor paradise, we have something of a moral obligation to keep our environment pristine.

Please do your part. Be smart. Be certain that the fire is out.

Here’s to blue skies and clear eyes until the snow flies.

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