Many students have received fines for not knowing how to properly execute a bonfire.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Idaho has had a lot of problems with students burning things that are harmful to the environment.
“In the sand dunes, burning anything that is not clean-fuel wood is banned. Don’t use anything that has nails in it, such as pallets or furniture. All that stuff leaves behind residue and debris. That stuff is hard to see until you step on it,” said Jeff Long, a law enforcement ranger with the BLM in Idaho Falls. “People like to walk in the sand with no shoes on, but it’s so full of nails and glass that it’s unsafe. When you leave behind a pallet, you leave behind about a thousand nails, and that’s littering,” Long said.
Some problems may be created because students are hurrying home to make curfew and failing to put out the fire or leaving hot ashes behind. Students must always make sure the fire is “out cold.”
“Out cold means that the ashes are cold to touch. If not, the wind can blow the fire back ,” Long said.
The BLM has also had trouble with students parking in incorrect areas and having bonfires in unauthorized areas.
“We have people parking along the shoulder of Red Road. That road gets really crowded and becomes a safety concern. We have provided a really great parking lot for the students’ use,” Long said. “We don’t want to discourage students from using the area. The designated area for bonfires is from Red Road, directly across the parking lot and about a half mile south.”
Shane O’Shea, the assistant fire warden with the Idaho Department of Land, had some tips for students having bonfires at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, or anywhere else in Idaho.
“They should clear a minimum distance of 5 to 10 feet of vegetation from the edge of the fire. They should make sure that they have a bucket and a shovel readily available and have some type of water source, whether they’re going to use a bucket brigade to get water from a nearby pond or stream. Make sure there’s no overhanging limbs near that could catch on fire and spread,” O’Shea said.
“If a fire gets out of hand, they could be walking away with a half-million-dollar bill.”
Besides the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, other counties and public lands may also have restrictions.
Stetson Carroll, a senior studying emergency medical services administration, was cited in Jefferson county on BLM land.
“My wife and I, two other coles and another friend of ours went approximately two miles past Beaver Dick park [west of Rexburg] and then drove approximately 1.5 miles south off the highway onto public land to have a bonfire. We were aware that littering is a crime and there are signs posted every where about ‘Pack it in, Pack it out’ but we were not aware that burning pallets fits into that category and is punishable as a misdemeanor with a court date and a $1000 dollar maximum fine per person or to six months in jail,” Carroll said.