Idaho legislature refuses to close loophole in fireworks regulations

The state of Idaho has a ridiculous law regulating the use of fireworks. It prohibits the use of fireworks that fly more than 20 feet into the air, including bottle rockets and aerial displays, that are used for private purposes. However, they can be sold in the state without any problem. The buyer simply has to promise by signing a form that they will not use them in Idaho.

Yesterday House Minority Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding introduced legislation that would close this loophole, making the sale of the illegal fireworks illegal. However within hours on a vote of 9 to 6 it was shot down by the House State Affairs Committee.

Dennis Doan, Chief of the Boise Fire Department, released a statement on Monday:

I would like to thank Rep Erpelding for his leadership on this issue. It was clear by the actions of the committee today they do not care about firefighter safety, or if people’s homes and lives are being destroyed by illegal fireworks every year. The exorbitant cost to taxpayers and local governments, and the fact that six homes in Ada County were burned down last year, was not enough to influence their decision to print a bill which would allow a full hearing and dialogue about this important issue.

The ability to purchase illegal fireworks apparently trumps the right of residents to protect their home from fires. This summer when someone’s home burns down due to aerial fireworks you can blame the House State Affairs Committee.

The 2,500-acre Table Rock Fire in the Boise foothills last June was caused by illegal fireworks, burned a home, and cost taxpayers $341,000, according to Chief Doan.

Wildfires in Colorado while fire weather warnings affect 7 states

Above: Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches affect seven states, February 10, 2017.

(UPDATED at 2:57 p.m. MT February 10, 2017)

Evacuations, earlier mostly lifted, have been reinstated for the wildfire west of Longmont, now named the Rogers Fire.

The name of the fire northwest of Boulder is Wagon Wheel Gap Fire.

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Originally published at 10:07 a.m. MT February 10, 2017.

While Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Warnings are in effect in seven states, two fires erupted early Friday morning just outside the warning area in Boulder and Longmont, Colorado.

Before 7 a.m. a grass fire started near the 5000 block of Nelson Road west of Longmont that forced the evacuation of 125 homes. It burned two barns and a haystack before firefighters stopped it at 15 acres.

Just after 8 a.m. a second fire broke out northwest of Boulder near the intersection of Lee Hill Drive and Wagon Wheel Gap Road that required the evacuation of 157 homes. At the last report at 9:10 a.m. it had burned three to five acres.

There is no indication so far that the two fires, 12 miles apart, are related.

The video below shows the fire near Boulder burning in steep terrain.

Strong winds that pushed the fires have also toppled semi-trucks across the state and left 3,960 customers without power in Boulder County.

It is unusual to have wildland fires burn structures and require evacuations only an hour or two after sunrise in mid February. Much of the front range in Colorado has had less snow than usual. When I drove through the area a few days ago there was virtually no snow on the ground near Colorado Springs, Longmont, and Denver, and these are areas above 5,000 feet.

Most of the Red Flag Warnings were issued around 5 a.m. on Friday and will expire at 5 to 6 p.m. local time today, depending on the area.

map fires longmont boulder
Map showing the location of fires near Boulder and Longmont, Colorado.

How to build fancy campfires

Wildland firefighters don’t work night shifts as much as we used to, but many of us have experienced a long night when there is not much mopup left to be done and it’s 2 a.m. The temperature is in the 40s or 50s, and the chill starts to creep into our sweat-soaked clothes. We might have thrown some unburned branches onto a smouldering hot spot and encouraged them into flames, seeking a little warmth.

That’s about the simplest campfire there is. But maybe you should step up your game.

Rakovalkea long-log fire
Rakovalkea long-log fire. Illustration by Robert Prince.

Field and Stream has an article describing 10 fancy campfires. This is not your typical missive about how to START a fire with tinder, kindling, and one match. We’ll assume you know that basic stuff. These fires all have a specific purpose, such as burning all night, signaling for help, sheltering the fire from wind, streamlining ignition with duct tape, and building a fire under a tarp.

Do you have hours to kill and need to stay warm? Impress your colleagues with one of these.

Prescribed fire in the Everglades

Legislation introduced to establish a national firefighter cancer registry

A bipartisan group of 76 Congressional Representatives have signed on as sponsors for legislation that would establish a national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with this deadly disease. The bill is titled Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.

Most firefighters know others in their profession who have suffered from and in some cases died of various forms of cancer.

The British Columbia government recognizes at least nine “presumptive cancers” among firefighters, including leukemia, testicular cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, bladder cancer, ureter cancer, colorectal cancer, and non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma.

According to Congressmen Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Chris Collins of New York:

…The creation of this registry would enable researchers to study the relationship between firefighters’ exposure to dangerous fumes and harmful toxins and the increased risk for several major cancers. In the future, this information could also allow for better protective equipment and prevention techniques to be developed.

“Public servants like our firefighters put their lives on the line every day for us,” said Congressman Chris Collins. “Unfortunately, firefighters see a higher rate of cancer than the rest of the public. This legislation will provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the tools they need to improve their data collection capabilities on volunteer, paid-on-call, and career firefighters. We hope that by creating a voluntary ‘Firefighter Registry’ that includes the many variables that occur over a firefighter’s career, the CDC will be able to better study this deadly trend. In the future, this information can be used to provide better safeguards and protocols for these brave men and women.”