21-06-28 Smokey Bear Very High Fire Danger

The Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests switched to “very high” wildfire potential over the weekend.

The Sawtooth National Forest and Salmon-Challis National Forest advanced from “High” to “Very High” wildfire danger over the weekend due to abnormal heat and abundant dry fuels, the U.S. Forest Service announced.

Around 6.4 million acres between 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. “Small fires can quickly become large and exhibit extreme fire intensity, such as long-distance spotting and fire whirls.”

Forest officials are now reminding the public to be extremely cautious maintaining and extinguishing campfires. Anyone who starts a wildfire, even inadvertently, can be held liable for damages and firefighting costs, the Forest Service said.

Campers should always add water to their campfires and stir the embers until they are drowned. The Forest Service is also encouraging the public to use campfire rings or fire pans when building a campfire and refrain from smoking in wooded, grassy or brushy areas.

No decisions on implementing fire restrictions have been made for either forest at this point, Sawtooth National Forest spokeswoman Julie Thomas and Salmon-Challis National Forest spokeswoman Amy Baumer confirmed Monday afternoon.

Stage 1 fire restrictions remain in place in Ketchum, meaning campfires and outdoor wood fires are illegal within city limits.

Smoking outdoors is also prohibited in Ketchum, “unless in vehicles or in areas at least three feet in diameter that is void of flammable vegetation,” according to the city. Charcoal grills, pellet grills and gas fires are still permitted.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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