Wildfire
10:29 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

New Fires Sparked, Some Threaten Homes

Update 10:30 PM:  More fires popped up Tuesday afternoon across several regions of Idaho.  At the same time, firefighters continued to make progress on the state’s largest fires.  Lightning strikes and human activity are both being blamed for the latest batch of fires. 

Several tiny fires burning parts of the Boise National Forest in Boise County are threatening homes.  Residents of the Clear Creek subdivision have been encouraged to evacuate.  Authorities say the fires have been as close as ¼ to ½ mile from houses.

A 100 acre fire is also burning another location in the Boise National Forest.  The “C” fire is located about 10-miles west of Donnelly. 

The 30 acre Rock Creek fire is burning 30 miles southwest of Hailey.  Officials say it’s threatening one structure. 

Fire crews are also working on fires near the eastern Idaho towns of Atomic City and Springfield. 

New fires started in the Bureau of Land Management’s Twin Falls District.  Structures were threatened by the Little Birch Creek fire burning southeast of Oakley.  That fire is 600 acres in size.

The largest fire in the state continues to be the Kinyon Road fire near Castleford.  It’s grown to 216,000 acres.  It’s 75 percent contained.

BLM officials say the Benwalk fire, which threatened businesses near Interstate 84 and shut down part of the interstate Monday night, is at 25,000 acres.  It’s expected to be contained Wednesday morning.

The Jacks fire on the South edge of Little Jacks Creek Wilderness has grown to 20,000 acres.

Update 12:53 PM: The Bureau of Land Management says firefighters have made significant progress on the Benwalk Fire that’s been burning near Mountain Home.  BLM spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto says containment is expected this afternoon or early this evening.  The fire is no longer growing.

The only other fire the BLM’s Boise office is managing is the Jacks Fire.  In just a matter of hours this morning, it grew from 200 to 6,000 acres.  It’s burning in the BLM's Jacks Creek area and is not threatening any homes.

Firefighters continue to work on the large Kinyon Road Fire.  BLM spokesman Jerry Ronhert says it's still estimated at 190,000 acres, though that number will likely grow when the next assessment is finished.  Late this morning he told KBSX that the fire is burning on only 9-percent of that land.  He says the fire isn’t threatening any homes.

“There’ll be some historical sites, maybe a stone house or some old mine or something like that,” Ronhert says. “But as far as residents living out there, there’s no homes threatened.”

Ronhert says the fire has been difficult to get a handle on because of the terrain it’s burning on.

“It’s basically a fire that you fight with engines, and that’s going along the perimeter and hosing [it] down,” Ronhert says.  “Hand crews, in some areas, just will not work.”

Fire crews have requested more engines and helicopters.  But Rohnert says aircraft are in high demand.

“We’re trying to order more helicopters, but because of all the fires going on in the West, the helicopters are being, what you might say, portioned out very selectively,” Ronhert says.

The fire has spread into a military training area.  That has complicated firefighters’ work because of the potential for ordinance leftover from previous exercises.

Update 8:30 AM: The Kinyon Road Fire continues to burn in wide open areas of southern Idaho.  The Bureau of Land Management said again Tuesday morning the fire is still estimated at 190,000 acres, though that figure is expected to grow after the next assessment.  Jerry Rohnert, a BLM spokesman, says those managing the firefighting operation have asked for more helicopters to support ground crews.  But Rohnert says other fires in the West mean there aren't enough helicopters to satisfy all requests. 

Meanwhile, Interstate 84 reopened near Mountain Home overnight.  More than 10 miles of the highway had closed as a result of the Benwalk Fire.  The BLM says a lightning strike caused that fire around 4 PM Monday.  It grew to 15,000 acres over the next few hours.  The fire approached businesses at an exit off the interstate, which forced their evacuation.  Structure protection measures were taken and the businesses weren't damaged.  BLM spokeswoman Mallory Eils says lightning strikes started six new fires Monday in the BLM's Boise district.

Update 5:00 PM: The Kinyon Road Fire has now burned 190,000 acres near the south central Idaho towns of Castleford and Roseworth. That’s double the area since Sunday evening. The Bureau of Land Management estimates the fire is 40 percent contained but does not have a timeline for full containment.

No evacuations have been ordered but the BLM says some homes are threatened. The Times-News reports the fire has also spread onto land near Sailor Creek. That area is used as a bombing range by Mountain Home Air Force Base.

Update 12:36 PM:  Idaho's largest wildfire so far this season continues to burn in the south central part of the state.  The Kinyon Road Fire has burned 150,000 acres of desert near the town of Castleford. Twelve aircraft are fighting the fire along with more than 30 pieces of ground equipment. Nearly 300 firefighters are expected on scene Monday afternoon.

The Bureau of Land Management says six homes are now threatened by the flames. But Castleford Mayor Twyla Crawford says residents are used to big wildfires.

“We’ve been through this before and it doesn’t, you know, really bother us that much,” Crawford says. “And I guess you just learn to live with it. We just go about what we’re doing.”

Crawford says Castleford residents don’t worry about fires unless they jump the canyon that separates the dessert from the town and most of its surrounding farms. She says the winds that spread the fire Sunday made that scenario seem unlikely.

Crawford is concerned about her town’s senior citizens. She says the smoke over the weekend made breathing difficult.  The smoke was especially thick Saturday night.  Crawford credits the wind for improving visibility and air quality.  That's the same wind, though, the BLM says has made containing the fire more difficult.

7:57 AM: The Bureau of Land Management says the Kinyon Road Fire burning in south central Idaho has now burned 150,000 acres.  That means the fire nearly doubled in size Sunday night and Monday morning.  As of Sunday evening, the BLM said the fire had burned 80,000 acres.   Sunday morning that figure had been 50,000.  The number of firefighters in the area will grow today. The BLM says reinforcements will arrive in the area and boost the number of firefighters to nearly 300. Twelve aircraft are also part of the operation.   With more than 230 square miles burned, Kinyon Road is one of the largest fires in the country. It was discovered in a remote area Saturday afternoon and spread quickly.  Those organizing the efforts to get the fire under control said Sunday morning they expected containment by Sunday evening. But a thunder cell developed early in the afternoon and strong winds expanded the fire. Now, there's no timetable set for containment. The fire has burned close to the towns of Castleford and Roseworth, though the BLM said this morning there have been no evacuations or homes destroyed.