In preparation for the Independence Day celebrations, both Boise and Meridian fire departments hosted Totally Boise and other media outlets for a professional firework safety demonstration. Held at their Joplin Road training facility, we were able to catch up with Boise Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Romeo Gervais, and Meridian Fire Marshal Joe Bongiorno.
With the added factor of the heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, the Treasure Valley is at a heightened risk for potential fires. Bongornio recounted a recent fire where a local citizen was using oil for a home project and hung it on a can nearby. The temperature in the area caused the oily rag to combust spontaneously, and the fire crews were called in. And there’s much more debris and items around our houses that could be potentially disastrous for anyone.
As Meridian Fire Marshal Bongiorno pointed towards the hill above the training facility, he noted how juniper and evergreen bushes produce dry needles as well as an oil that makes them a recipe for significant fire risk. The two officials recommended Treasure Valley residents look into the Firewise method of protection for their houses. “We have personnel at both departments that would be happy to come and walk your property with you,” Bongiorno informed us as a free resource for all Boise, Meridian residents.
“Watering your property helps raise (vegetations) fuel moisture index, but only for a short duration,” Gervais remarked when asked about how we can prepare our houses within the city this summer. A more effective solution Gervais gave was to mow common fire starters like grass and weeds frequently. The trimmings should also be removed and properly disposed of, not left lying where they fell.
The two fire department officials agreed that the most common fire call they receive on the Fourth of July is for grass fires. The current heatwave has left them wishing for extra care and attention from the community. As fire crews recently responded to a grass fire off Highway 16, a call for backup fire crews was made for added assistance. While our local fire departments are properly staffed and supported, the excessive heat caused the first crew to become winded. With a second crew called, the first could rehydrate, and the two could more effectively and safely fight the fires.
Some advice that the two firefighters gave as we head into peak fire season:
- Soak your fireworks in a bucket of water before you dispose of them in the trash.
- Fireworks that have not been soaked have caused house damage and, in extreme cases, structure fires.
- Have a 15 - 20 ft area clear of grass and other debris to light your campfire or fireworks in.
- Let sober adults be the ones to light fireworks.
- Sign up for the Code Red Emergency Notification System to stay aware of emergencies in whichever locations you choose.
- Firewise proof your house or business.
- The Idaho Botanical Gardens has a Firewise Garden to show visitors what a Firewise landscape looks like as well as how beautiful it can be.
- Fireworks are completely banned in all unincorporated areas of the valley, like the southern desert landscapes. Fireworks are also banned in neighborhoods north of Hill Road and Warm Springs Ave.
- Mow your ditches instead of burning their grasses and weeds.
By observing and respecting the guidelines given by the local Fire Departments and the City of Boise, our community can further support our brave and hardworking first responders. The fewer accidents and calls made to the local departments is the best way not to stretch their firefighters and resources past their means.