Soda Fire Burns Historic Idaho Places, Looters Take Advantage

Aug 31, 2015

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.

Historic Silver City was not damaged by the Soda Fire.
Credit Randy Craig / Idaho Fish and Game

M.J. Byrne with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) won’t be specific about the historic sites damaged by the Soda Fire due to fears of looting. She says looting of historic artifacts has already taken place at sites in the Soda Fire’s boundaries. This is all the BLM is willing to say at this point.

“A variety of Native American sites dating back thousands of years as well as a few historic homesteads and mining sites in the area were burned to varying extents,” Byrne says.

Byrne stresses that it is a crime to take things from historic places and that conditions are still very dangerous in areas burned by the Soda Fire. The fire has only been considered controlled for a week. On the bright side Byrne says, firefighters were able to protect some important historical sites including the well-known ghost town Silver City.   

Here is the full list of Soda Fire impacts:


Total acres burned (revised): 279,144

Private property acres (revised): 40,138

Structures downstream from burned area: 12

BLM grazing allotments: 41

Fences: 592 miles, plus 44 fenced springs

Roads, highways: 66 miles

Roads, primitive: 518 miles 

Trails, non-motorized: 49 miles

Trails, ATV/motorcycle: 47 miles

Trails, 4WD: 199 miles

Recreation sites (day use): 4

Mining sites: 35

Potential hazmat sites: 3


Cultural sites*: 16

Areas of Critical Environmental Concern: 5

Watersheds: 5

Springs: 208 (w/1,352 acres of riparian area)

Streams w/redband trout habitat: 140 miles     

Riparian area: 6,441 acres

Sage-grouse habitat, priority: 53,421 acres

Sage-grouse habitat, important: 189,873 acres

Sage-grouse leks, occupied: 10

Bighorn sheep habitat: 141,000 acres

Mule deer winter habitat: 29,317 acres

Pronghorn winter habitat: 26,610 acres

Golden eagle nests: 68

* eligible for the National Register of Historic Places

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio