With snow drifts still clinging to the hills around the Wood River Valley, firefighters are already putting out human-caused blazes that have the potential to quickly sweep through dry grass and trees, causing destructive wildfires.
On Sunday at 2:03 p.m. crews from Wood River Fire & Rescue responded to a tip about a fire “spreading quickly” on the valley bottom about 5 miles east of Hailey in Quigley Canyon. Seven firefighters and two engines raced up the narrow canyon on a dirt road and had the fire out by 3:15 p.m.
WRFR Fire Chief Ron Bateman said that even this early in the fire season there is reason to worry about wildfire risk and a need to inform the public about proper fire safety in the backcountry.
“It was only April 4 and Baldy hasn’t even closed yet, and we’re addressing drought conditions,” Bateman said. “With fuels that are drying quickly, it’s a real concern. This seems to have been an unextinguished campfire, which is extremely irresponsible."
Bateman said the fire burned about a quarter acre on Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service land. He said there were four personnel at the station in Hailey when the fire was reported. Others came from a station in south Bellevue with another truck.
“These fire events have the ability to get out of control in a real big way,” Bateman said. “We’re super thankful for who called it in.”
Bateman said that even though there are no fire restrictions currently in place, it is essential that campers follow the basic safety protocols that could keep a wildfire from starting and then raging through the forest.
“Have water on hand to extinguish your fire and be sure it is absolutely out before you leave,” he said.
Bateman said his department had responded to multiple fire reports during a recent 24-hour period, including one sign of smoke rising south of Timmerman Hill reported by ski patrollers from the top of Baldy.
It’s necessary for farmers and other property owners to get burn permits before starting controlled burns to remove slash or stubble on their properties, Bateman said.
“On Monday we had enough strong winds predicted that we did not authorize burn permits in the Bellevue Triangle,” he said.