Wildfires
10:47 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Idaho Fires Grow, Featherville Evacuates

Updated: August 20, 2012 4:45 p.m.

A thick smoke that's hovered over the Pine and Featherville areas for days now, lifted somewhat today giving fire crews and residents a break. But that smoke acted like a blanket, keeping the fire quiet. Now that blaze is knocking at Featherville's door. Mary Christensen is a fire information officer. She talks in absolutes. It's not a matter of "if" but "when" this 90,664 acre fires moves through Featherville.

She says if you walked through Featherville, you'd find a handful of residents who chose to stay behind when the evacuation order went out over the weekend. "You would see a lot of fire fighters and engines at people's residences and businesses and behind that you would see lines of firefighters with hose lays."

That's all an effort to help protect homes and businesses in the area. More than 1,000 firefighters continue work on the fire. 

Christensen expects Tuesay will be a tough day given that a dry, cold front will move through ushering in gusty winds and thunderstorms. Meanwhile, displaced residents are waiting for news at a Red Cross shelter at the Pine Senior Center.

Updated: August 19, 2012 11:35 a.m.

Residents of the town of Featherville are anxiously watching the approach of the Trinity Ridge Fire.  It’s burned nearly 90,000 acres now, and has been inching closer to the town.  Many residents evacuated Sunday amid heavy smoke that cut down significantly on visibility.  Air quality in the area remains poor.  That heavy smoke helped slow the fire's progress Saturday.

Some residents evacuated to the nearby town of Pine where a Red Cross shelter was set up. 

At last update, officials said the fire was just three miles from town.  The fire is only 5 percent contained and officials think it may be October before the Trinity Ridge fire is fully contained.  More than 1,000 people are at work on the fire, which has cost nearly $11 million to fight so far.

Meanwhile, the Springs Fire that’s burned more than 6,100 acres near Garden Valley is nearing an end.  Officials overseeing the fighting of that fire say it’s 95 percent contained. 

Updated: August 18, 2012 4:30 p.m.

Sixteen wildfires continue to burn around Idaho. The Trinity Ride fire burning 105 miles northeast of Boise in the Boise National Forest is the state's top fire fighting priority. This afternoon, the Elmore County Sheriff ordered immediate evacuations for the Featherville area to Paradise. That's because dense smoke has reduced visibility there. Pine Featherville Road is now closed. Only  fire and emergency traffic can use it. 

The Trinity Ridge Fire has grown 10,000 acres in the last 24 hours. Fire officials predict it will reach Featherville in the next 24 hours.  The wildfire is now more than 82,000 acres. 

Halstead Fire

The Halstead fire 18 miles Northwest of Stanley can be seen from space. It continues to grow this weekend. 

The fire is at 88, 371 acres. Thursday evening the Custer County sheriff issued an evacuation notice for the Sunbeam Store to Custer Town and Jordan Creek as well as Loon Creek Summit. Everyone must be evacuated by Friday evening at 5 p.m.

The wildfire, which started July 27, is a stand replacing fire. That means it leaves blackened ground in its wake. The blaze is being fueled by beetle killed trees.

Hot temperatures, dry conditions and winds Thursday fanned the flames. The same conditions are expected Friday.

This fire has spread about a mile each day. That’s the equivalent of about 10,000 acres a day.

The Evacuation

Tuesday a 48-hour evacuation notice went out to residents and campers along the Highway 75 corridor from Sunbeam to Lower Stanley. That order did not include Stanley or Lower Stanley.

Fire information officer Mary Cernicek says crews have been working to keep Highway 75 open and to protect a major power line that supplies electricity throughout that corridor including to Stanley.

“This fire has a lot of energy, a lot of intensity,” she says. “We do expect to be working on this fire until the snow comes.”

That could be well into October.

A large area around the Halstead and the Bench Fire remains closed. For information on the closure area visit www.fs.usda.gov/sawtooth and www.fs.usda.gov/scnf .

Trinity Ridge Fire Still Grows, Hundreds Ready To Leave [updated Thursday, August 16 ]

Meanwhile, the Trinity Ridge fire burning in the Boise National Forest has hundreds of people packed up and ready to leave the mountain towns of Pine and Featherville.

Many have already but Thursday the fire slowed enough to allow people back to their homes until 5 p.m. That’s when the roads closed again.

Fire information officer Steve Till says firefighters stayed focused on protecting homes in Featherville and Pine.

“People are always asking is the fire going to get to Featherville. Well it could but it might not. That depends entirely on mother nature,” he says. “But we’re doing our darndest to keep it away. In fact if possible we’ll fight it up on the mountain rather than letting it come down.”

Tough Day For Firefighters

Fire crews had a difficult time Thursday as they worked to build a perimeter around the blaze. This hot and dry weather with winds added to the challenge. 

Fire fighters head up a hill to work on the Trinity Ridge Fire Thursday.
Credit Dave Olson / Boise National Forest

The fire did back down close to the community of Rock Bar from the north. No structures have been damaged and firefighters remain in place.

On the fire’s western flank, crews are working to complete structure protection efforts in Alexander Flats and Barber Flat. The fire’s headed northwest near Barber Flat and is nearing the North Fork of the Boise River.

Firefighters will continue to address protection needs in Atlanta and Swanholm Lookout.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio