HEART OF ALENE – Bryan Hicks has been fighting fires for 30 years. He said the current drought and high temperatures have created a potential for fires like almost no other.
“These are some of the most extreme conditions we have seen in northern Idaho,” he said Thursday. “This is serious business.”
Hicks, the mica watchdog area fire warden with the Idaho Land Department, compared it to 2015, which was another hot, dry year with a busy fire season. This included the Cape Horn fire which destroyed several homes and forced around 200 Bayview residents to flee.
He doesn’t want this to happen again and called on the public to be careful this July 4th weekend.
“Our people have had to deal with many man-made fires,” he said.
Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris, along with local police and fire chiefs, held a press conference Thursday to stress to the public “that aerial fireworks and other unsafe and healthy fireworks are illegal and extremely dangerous. We encourage everyone to refrain from their use.
Norris said he does not support a fireworks ban “for our citizens in our freedom-loving county.”
He said he believed asking for cooperation was the best way to go, “not a mandate, not a law, not a restriction.”
He urged people to attend one of the county’s professional fireworks display rather than light their own.
“With our freedom comes responsibility,” he said.
Northern Lakes Fire Protection District fire chief Pat Riley said they were already out of breath and feared it would be a grueling weekend. He knows people want to celebrate after living so long with coronavirus restrictions.
“I’m just asking people to do it responsibly,” he said.
Riley said they were doing their best to attack the fires early and keep them from spreading, and that they were effective.
Fireworks could start large fires.
“If you started a fire as a result of these fireworks, you would be responsible for the costs of extinguishing that fire,” Riley said, adding that the cost is in the thousands of dollars per hour.
Additional police and firefighters will be on standby on July 4.
Norris said he had a “no day off” policy for the fourth. CDA Fire Chief Kenny Gabriel said they will have a boat in the water at Tubbs Hill and six additional platforms ready to roll.
Meanwhile, KCSO, the Kootenai County Fire Chiefs Association, Idaho Lands Department, and Emergency Management Office will host a community readiness meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on July 8 at the office. County Emergency Management Center, 1662 WW Wyoming Ave.
They will discuss updates on fire conditions, explain stakeholder concerns, provide tips and resources to protect the property, and help residents formulate a plan for a major event.
“The best way to protect your families and property is to have a well thought out plan and to notify first responders at the first sign of a problem,” a press release said.