State's Largest Fire Burns Across The Road From Idaho Town

Sep 11, 2012

The Mustang Fire Complex has burned about 290,000 acres in the Salmon-Challis National Forrest near the Montana border. It’s now 1.5 miles from the town of North Fork. Monday night Tam Ambrose could see it from her window.

“I could see the orange glow above the hill across the road from us. And I knew the fire was on the back side of that,” She says. “We just kept watching and watching and as the glow gets brighter in intensity you’ll see a puff of black smoke and then you’ll see flames. And it came over the hill, it must have been around 10:00.”

Ambrose owns the Village at North Fork. It’s an R.V. park, motel, general store, café and gas station. Despite the closeness of the fire, Ambrose isn't worried.

“The firefighters are awesome. They wanted to reassure us, one guy said don’t worry, we’ve got I don’t know how many engines and 30,000 gallons of water between you and that fire.”

Credit Tam Ambrose

Across the road from Ambrose’s store there’s a field that serves as a base for many of the 1,014 people fighting the Mustang Fire Complex. Beyond the field is a hill. That hill is where Ambrose watched the fire Monday night.

Ambrose says even though many of her neighbors have been evacuated, fire officials asked her to keep The Village at North Fork open.

“The local community felt that it was really important if it was safe for us to stay open,” she says. “Because as they put it to me, it's the emotional center of the community as well as kind of the physical center.”

It’s also the only place nearby to purchase gas and supplies. Ambrose says many of the people evacuated are staying in her R.V. park or just hanging out in the café waiting for news. But she says hanging out in North Fork right now isn’t easy.

Credit Tam Ambrose

“I think all of us, when the smoke is the worst, we notice the headaches. And a lot of people have complained of chest pressure. They just can’t breathe.” She adds she doesn’t know how the firefighters do it, but she’s glad they.

And protection from the flames is not the only reason she’s glad the fire fighters are there. She says they’re making up for the tourists who aren’t.

“They have certain things that they like that aren’t provided. Energy drinks, sodas and toiletries.” After a brief pause she adds.  “Oh and tobacco, lots of tobacco.”

Thanks to the firefighters Ambrose says her summer revenue will be OK. But she’s had tourists cancel reservations through November. And she doesn’t know how the fire across the road will affect next season.

“A lot of people hear that you’re having this huge fire and they assume that everything is just scorched and it’s not going to be beautiful anymore.”

Ambrose thinks the green will return quickly once the fire is out. But she can only hope the campers, rafters and hunters will to.