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Is the wildfire season over yet? Not quite

Weiser Signal American of Weiser, Idaho

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State fire managers, citing dry conditions and an unseasonably high fire danger statewide, last week extended the fire season indefinately and required burn permits beyond Oct. 20.

Fire districts around the state, including the Weiser Area Rural Fire Department, follow the state's lead on when the "official" fire season will end.

But the state issued the directive before the past weekend's soaking rain, which likely dampened the potential for fires in the area.

Weiser rural fire official Ron Bruce, a captain with the department, said until the state says otherwise the department will follow the state's directive and continue to require burn permits.

"We're going to have to abide by it," he said on Monday.

The Idaho Department of Lands announced last week it would extend the fire season until further notice. The closed fire season begins May 10 and usually extends through Oct. 20 every year.

Idaho law requires any person living outside city limits anywhere in Idaho who plans to burn anything-including crop residue burning and excluding recreational campfires-during closed fire season to obtain a fire safety burn permit.

"Even though it's the middle of October, conditions are expected to be warm and dry enough across Idaho to ignite a wildfire that can easily escape initial attack," State Forester David Groeschl said last week. "Requiring fire safety burn permits past Oct. 20 for certain controlled burn activities enables fire managers to set parameters for the types of burning allowed in certain areas that are still at risk for wildfire."

By October, there also are fewer firefighters, equipment, and aircraft available to respond to a controlled burn if it escapes, he said.

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service were hoping for a season-ending event in the form of rain or snow and it appears the weekend rain will do the job on the Payette National Forest. Along with the rain have come cooler temperatures and the possibility of even more weather systems this weekend.

Forest Service spokesman Brian Harris, who is based in McCall, said the half inch of rain the Payette National Forest has received over the past week has pretty much doused the fire season.

The recent weather events that brought rain to the west and central areas of the forest over the past three days basically equates to a fire season ending weather event, he said.

"The likelihood of a fire start escaping initial attack and becoming a large fire has been significantly diminished to a point that we can declare our fire season as over for 2015," he said after conferring with fire managers on the forest.

The largest fire of the summer in the Payette National Forest was the Teepee Springs fire, which has burned nearly 100,000 acres since it started on Aug. 12.

Harris said that huge fire will likely continue to smolder in places until the snow flies.

Harris said the lower elevations around Weiser could see more small fire activity in the near future once the vegetation dries out again.

The Forest Service stations two engines in Weiser.

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Original Publication Date: October 21, 2015

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