The Sawtooth National Forest will implement Stage 1 fire restrictions on Friday due to abnormal heat and abundant dry fuels, the U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday.

Starting at midnight Friday, anyone recreating in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Ketchum, Fairfield and Minidoka Ranger Districts may no longer “ignite, build, maintain, attend, or use fire” except if using a petroleum-fueled stove or grill.

Exceptions apply to several campgrounds within the Redfish Lake complex and Wood River Valley, provided signs are posted indicating legal campfire use.

In those cases, campfires can be built on “permanent metal or concrete structures” installed and maintained by the Forest Service. Users can also cook with fully enclosed metal stoves, grills, or “sheepherder-type stoves with a chimney at least 5 feet in length and a spark arrester with a mesh screen.”

Under Stage 1 restrictions, the Sawtooth National Forest will also ban smoking outdoors, “unless in vehicles or in areas at least 3 feet in diameter that are void of flammable vegetation,” according to the Forest Service.

Tuesday’s announcement came after the Sawtooth National Forest and Salmon-Challis National Forest advanced from “High” to “Very High” wildfire danger over the weekend.

Around 6.4 million acres across the two forests now fall under the designation.

“In ‘Very High’ fire danger, fires can start from most causes. The fires can spread rapidly and have a quick increase in intensity, right after ignition,” the Forest Service stated on June 25. “Small fires can quickly become large and exhibit extreme fire intensity, such as long-distance spotting and fire whirls.”

As of last Friday, starting campfires or outdoor wood fires and smoking within three feet of vegetation became illegal in Ketchum, concurrent with the city’s implementation of Stage 1 fire restrictions. Charcoal grills, pellet grills and gas fires are still permitted in the city.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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