Wildfires
12:50 pm
Sat June 30, 2012

Pocatello Fire Now 50 Percent Contained

Update (12:50 PM Saturday)  Officials in Pocatello said Saturday the Charlotte fire that’s burned more than 60 homes is now 50-percent contained.  They hope to have the fire fully contained Sunday.

According to TV station KPVI, police are providing escorts for those evacuated residents who wish to visit their homes.  That will last until 5 PM Saturday.  No escorts are planned for Sunday.  Authorities say it will likely be Monday before evacuated residents are allowed to return to their homes for good.

Winds are expected to gust to about 35 MPH Sunday, increasing the risk for the fire to grow.  In advance of those winds, firefighters have been soaking unburned fuels as a means of lowering their risk of ignition.  The National Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for portions of southeast Idaho on Sunday.  Firefighters aren’t expected to get any help in the form of rain.  The National Weather Service says rain chances will be minimal for at least the next week. 

In the meantime, Pocatello officials have banned fireworks.  They say they need to keep the risk for new fires as low as possible while they deal with the Charlotte fire.

Update  (12:30 PM Friday)  The Charlotte wildfire burning near Pocatello has destroyed 66 homes.  Authorities shared new details on the fire at a press conference late this morning.

They say the fire is fully surrounded by dozer lines or roads.  Crews are now working to fight the fire within those boundaries, and protect the homes left standing from active embers.  Several fire departments from eastern Idaho are fighting the blaze.  Police resources from outside Pocatello have also been called on to help.

Authorities expect to stay on the scene for at least three more days.   Some of the evacuated areas are being re-opened. 

Sarah Wheeler with Bureau of Land Management's Pocatello office says investigators believe the Charlotte fire is human caused.

Update  (11:53 AM Friday)  Authorities in Pocatello now say a total of 66 homes were destroyed in the Charlotte fire.  Firefighters have set up a perimeter  around the entire fire.  

Update (8:20 AM Friday):  The Bureau of Land Management says cooler temperatures overnight helped crews fighting the Charlotte fire just outside of Pocatello.  The fire is not contained though the BLM says it did not grow overnight.  BLM spokeswoman Sarah Wheeler tells KBSX the official number of homes destroyed is still at 20, though that number is likely to go up once officials get a chance to conduct another count.  The fire has burned about 1040 acres.

Wheeler says residents evacuated yesterday are still being kept out of their homes.  Those managing the firefighting effort will meet later this morning to discuss lifting the evacuation order.  

Wheeler says the affected area is on the very edge of Pocatello, and represents a "picture perfect" example of a wildland urban interface.  There have been no injuries or fatalities.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

Original story: A wildfire has destroyed 20 homes and forced more than 1,000 people to evacuate in the Pocatello area. Many are spending the night at Idaho State University's Holt Arena where the American Red Cross is providing help. 

The Charlotte Fire started this afternoon. Sarah Wheeler with the Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center says investigators believe its human caused. High winds, rugged terrain and dry conditions fueled the flames in the Minks Creek, Gibson Jack and Johnny Creek areas.  

Fire personnel flew over the blaze tonight and now estimate it's at more than 1,000 acres. Wheeler says the winds have died down and temperatures have cooled off helping firefighters. 

“We intend to hold the fire line we currently have in place,” said Dan Zajanc in a news release late tonight. He's the incident commander for the Charlotte Fire. “We will have federal and local engines conducting roaming patrols throughout the night to extinguish hot spots and secure the perimeter.”

Wheeler says no one will be allowed back to their homes tonight. Power lines are down. The fire remains active. Wheeler says there have been reports of propane tanks exploding. 

The Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center has eight engines, two hand crews,  two heavy air tankers, a helicopter, a lead plane, air attack and more focused on fighting this fire.  

Meanwhile crews are also working to put out another human caused fire. The Stockton fire is about three miles southeast of Swan Lake. It's now around 400 acres.  That fire is also threatening structures. 

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