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Northwest Public Radio

As high winds continued to fan a wildfire near Omak, Martín de la Rosa and his co-workers got the day off from picking apples because of the smoke. They drank beer and listened to music outside a cluster of small cabins surrounded by orchards. But they didn’t get any information about fires burning in the Okanogan Complex until they were dangerously close to home. By the time the foreman came to see them, de la Rosa says, “We were seeing smoke, and planes were out spraying.” 

Colette Cassinelli / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho public schools have received nearly $16 million after the state auctioned off cabins at Priest Lake.

The Spokesman-Review reports 35 lakefront cabin sites were purchased by the cabin owners for an average of $447,000 each at the Friday auction at the Coeur d'Alene Resort.

The highest-priced parcel in the auction went for $643,000, and the lowest-priced sold for $341,000.

NASA/Jeff Schmaltz

Monday's crisp and clear air is a welcome relief after weeks of wildfire smoke fumigated valleys around Idaho. The real-time monitor from the Department of Environmental Quality shows just how much things have improved, even in places where fires are still raging.

Randy Craig / Idaho Fish and Game

Idaho’s largest fire this year burned 279,144 acres in the southwest corner of the state. That figure is from a list released over the weekend that details the Soda Fire’s impacts. The list has numbers on nearly 30 items, including 592 miles of fences burned and 68 golden eagle nests destroyed. It also says 16 cultural sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places were burned.

Courtesy: J.R. Simplot Company

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a potato genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine and that still damages crops.

Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. says that the Russet Burbank can also be stored at colder temperatures longer to reduce food waste.

The potato is the second generation of Simplot's Innate potatoes and also includes the first generation's reduced bruising and a greater reduction in a chemical produced at high temperatures that some studies have shown can cause cancer.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Comic book conventions, known has "cons", happen in nearly every city in the country. Some are money-making affairs, others are organized by fans for fans. But in Boise, the public library has gotten in on this pop-culture phenomenon.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul stopped in Boise as part of his Western tour to rally support and attract voters in a red-dominated state that is likely to have its pick of candidates during the GOP primary election.

Paul spoke to nearly 300 people at Boise State University on Thursday. He then left an afternoon rally in Nampa that's followed by a GOP barbeque in Idaho Falls.

The Kentucky senator's swing through the West has already included rallies in Alaska and Washington, with other stops planned in Utah and Wyoming.

Lacey Daley / Boise State Public Radio

A federal judge in North Dakota has blocked a new rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some state waters.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson of North Dakota issued a temporary injunction Thursday against the Obama administration rule. The rule gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers authority to protect some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

A nearly toothless, 25-year-old male grizzly bear that repeatedly broke into buildings in eastern Idaho has been euthanized.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game in a statement Thursday says the grizzly was killed Monday near Island Park because it had become habituated to human-related foods.

Regional Wildlife Manager Curtis Hendricks says the bear made no direct threat to humans but its advanced age and decreasing ability to forage naturally increased the potential for conflict.

Flickr Creative Commons

A Canyon County high school student has been asked to remove a Confederate flag from his truck because administrators worry it is a gang symbol.

KIVI-TV reports that Cossa Academy student Jordan Beattie says he hung the flag from his truck after his girlfriend gave it to him as a gift. His mother Sherry Beattie says when he came to the Wilder school with the flag displayed he was called to the school office.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Southwest Idaho’s nearly 300,000 acre Soda Fire is the largest this year in areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Most of the burned area was habitat for the sage grouse, the bird whose status as a contender for the Endangered Species List could affect ranching, recreation and energy production in 11 western states. That is why the national director of the BLM was in Boise Wednesday to talk about rehabilitating that land.

J. Alleman / Bureau of Land Management

The Soda Fire was officially contained this week, at 445 square miles. Now thoughts turn to reclaiming the landscape southwest of Boise.

A team of 40 specialists spent five days in the field, surveying the burned area. Their goal is to find and fight threats to life, property and resources over the next three years.

T.J. Clifford is the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team Leader for the Soda Fire. The team is working for the Bureau of Land Management but is made up of people from multiple agencies.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

This academic year marks the first that a remote Idaho school district will make guns available to trained staff members in the event that an active shooter is on the 300-student campus.

KBOI-TV reports Superintendent Greg Alexander says it can take 45 minutes or longer for emergency responders to reach the Garden Valley School District, prompting officials to buy four rifles, put them in gun safes and train a few staff members in how to use them.

Boise State Public Radio

A man was severely burned and his two dogs were killed last week in a hot spring in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Normally, Panther Creek hot spring is very hot, but comfortable enough for outdoor soaking enthusiasts. But now, forest managers say the water has gotten much hotter (possibly at or near boiling) and they are urging users to be cautious.

Thomas M. Parsons / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials aren't ruling out that new state parks could be named after private companies that give large donations or sponsorships, but a recently proposed set of rules would severely limit business' ability to acquire naming rights.

Earlier this year, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed legislation permitting the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to pursue sponsorships with corporations to help offset slashed state revenue. Now department officials are finalizing sponsorship rules, which will need approval from the department board and Idaho Legislature.

Soda Fire

Wild horses that survived the Soda Fire now face another threat: starvation, after the fire burned their food supply. The Bureau of Land Management plans to rescue those animals and feed and house them until the landscape can recover.

Arbyreed / Flickr Creative Commons

An Idaho-based company that makes most of the retardant used on wildfires has stopped making the substance in its traditional rusty red, opting instead for a hot pink color.

The Missoulian reports that Phos-Chek representative Lou Gildemeister says pilots report that the pink clouds have better visibility.

Air tankers draw lines of retardant around the perimeter of a wildfire, but if they can't see where the substance lands they could leave gaps.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

More than 70 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand arrived in Boise Sunday to help fight wildfires burning throughout the Northwest. They are currently at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise for training and will deploy later this week. Area fire managers requested their help last week, following a rash of large fires that have stretched American resources very thin.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued an alert Monday declaring air quality unhealthy again in the Treasure Valley. The agency issued a similar alert last Thursday.  

If your shortness of breath is giving you déjà vu, you’re not alone. This summer's smoke and wildfires are approaching the numbers put up in the summers of 2007, 2012 and 2013.

Boise National Forest

Australian and New Zealand firefighters have arrived in the United States and on Monday prepared to fan out to help fight wildfires burning in several western states.

The 70 firefighters are scheduled to receive protective equipment at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, where an air quality alert is in effect due to smoke from regional wildfires.

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