How to stay safe on the 4th of July

July Fourth Travel
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 18:47:12-04

The Fourth of July is almost here, and with the dry heat of the summer comes the risk of fires in the Treasure Valley. Here's how you can be safe during the holiday both with and without fireworks.

In a typical year, 80% of wildfires are caused by humans. Around the 4th of July weekend, fire officials see a spike in human-caused wildfires. Those who plan on traveling during the holiday weekend should use extra care in southern Idaho, according to Recreate Responsibly Idaho.

Related: Firework stands to open Thursday in the Treasure Valley, city officials urge safety

The origin of human-caused wildfires around the Fourth of July can include:

  • Fireworks
  • Unattended campfires
  • Driving on dry grass
  • Dragging tow chains
  • Inappropriate disposal of hot ashes and BBQ coals

Vehicle-caused wildfires

This year's wet spring caused range grasses and plants to grow tall, which created a large amount of potential fire fuel. These range grasses and plants include cheatgrass and Idaho fescue, which are now drying out in the summer and thus are more likely to catch fire.

"Vegetation is starting to dry out with these hotter temperatures, so there's tall grass in some of these areas," said Matthew Conde, Service Center Supervisor for AAA Oregon/Idaho. "Don't ever drive through or park in tall grass, because you could easily ignite that combustible material and set off a wildfire."

Related: AAA: How to stay safe during 4th of July travel

If you're hauling a trailer, be sure to check the chains before you start driving. The chains should be long enough to cradle the trailer if it does come loose, but shouldn't drag the ground, as that would spark and start a wildfire.

If you want to know more about Idaho fires and what you can do, head to the Idaho Fire Information website.

How to handle fireworks safely

If you're going to set off your own fireworks, there are ways to do it safely.

The Boise Fire Department and Meridian Fire Department held a joint safety demonstration on June 30 to show Idahoans some safety tips:

  • Make sure it's legal to set fireworks off where you live
  • Light fireworks off one at a time
  • Keep fireworks away from any body parts and/or other people
  • Don't try to re-light a faulty firework
  • Keep water handy to put out any flames
  • Don't ever handle fireworks while impaired
  • Always monitor your children and never let them handle fireworks

Related: City of Boise July 4th fireworks: What to know before you go

"We want kids not lighting the fireworks off, it's an adult activity, and the kids should be watching," said Joe Bongiorno, deputy chief of prevention at Meridian Fire Department. "Once the fireworks are shot off, let them cool off a little bit, and then we want to take them and drop them in a bucket of water, let them soak overnight before you put them in your trashcan."

If you do happen to get a serious burn due to handling fireworks, make sure you seek medical attention right away.

Fireworks banned in some areas of Ada County

Even so-called "safe and sane" fireworks are prohibited in certain areas of Boise and Ada County where the risk of wildfires are the greatest, that includes Idaho's Wildland-Urban Interface.

Fireworks banned in majority of Ada County
Blue on map indicates area where fireworks are banned.

The Wildland-Urban Interface encompasses several neighborhoods in the foothills and east Boise.

Related: Close to home: living a fire-safe lifestyle in Idaho's Wildland-Urban Interface

Ada County commissioners recently voted to ban fireworks in all unincorporated areas of Ada County where there isn't a designated fire district. If you start a fire with fireworks in Idaho, you could face jail time and will be responsible for covering the costs of fighting the fire.

Staying safe on the water Fourth of July weekend

Some people like to enjoy water-based recreation during their Fourth of July celebrations. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is stressing water safety and urging extra caution while in or around water this holiday weekend.

Because some people spend their time on the Fourth of July doing water-based recreation, some celebrations end tragically due to accidents in or around bodies of water. To ensure safe recreation over the holiday weekend and throughout the rest of the summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends these tips:

  • Wear your life jacket
  • Watch for floating hazards in the water
  • Learn to swim and don't overestimate your swimming skills
  • Do not dive or jump from cliffs or structures situated near the water
  • Beware of cold water temperatures
  • Don't drink and boat

For more information on these and other water safety tips, you can visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.