National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National forecasters predict an El Nino year. Climate experts say the storms are likely to be as strong as the El Nino 18 years ago, and people in the arid southwest are already dealing with above-average precipitation.

But in Idaho, scientists say the Gem State is in for another hot and dry year.

John Abatzoglou is a climatologist at the University of Idaho. He says El Nino in Idaho typically brings below normal temperatures and less precipitation, and another year like 2015 is not good news for the northern part of the state.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The smoke blanketing Boise from the Walker Fire near Idaho City eased up Wednesday but was still bad enough for the Boise School District to cancel outdoor activities like football games and tennis matches.

Someone flying into Boise Tuesday shared the pictures above with KBSX. Much of the valley floor is invisible under a gray/brown haze. 

Boise's Table Rock was a dim outline at about 9:00 Tuesday morning. It was a little clearer around the same time Wednesday morning from outside our studios.

Idaho Department of Lands

A wildfire burning 40 miles northeast of Boise is moving away from structures, but continues to pour smoke into the Treasure Valley.

The 2,500-acre Walker Fire started Saturday on private property near Grimes Creek and Mack Creek. The fire is suspected to be human caused.

Burning eight miles southwest of Idaho City in Boise County, the fire has destroyed four structures, including three cabins.

The Idaho Department of Lands says some areas are still under evacuation:

Stuart Rankin / Flickr Creative Commons

This year's catastrophic wildfire season has required more than 1 million gallons of fire retardant from the Boise Air Tanker Base, marking it the highest retardant delivery season the base has seen in nearly two decades.

Officials announced Tuesday that the base has typically delivered around 821,500 gallons over the past 10 years. However, the highest delivery year was in 1994, where firefighters pumped more than 1.6 million gallons of retardant into air tankers from the base.


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says Idaho’s biggest wildfire this year, the nearly 300,000 acre Soda Fire, generated potential hazardous material sites. One is an old mercury processing facility in the Owyhee County desert that was cleaned up four years ago.

Northwest Public Radio

As high winds continued to fan a wildfire near Omak, Martín de la Rosa and his co-workers got the day off from picking apples because of the smoke. They drank beer and listened to music outside a cluster of small cabins surrounded by orchards. But they didn’t get any information about fires burning in the Okanogan Complex until they were dangerously close to home. By the time the foreman came to see them, de la Rosa says, “We were seeing smoke, and planes were out spraying.” 

NASA/Jeff Schmaltz

Monday's crisp and clear air is a welcome relief after weeks of wildfire smoke fumigated valleys around Idaho. The real-time monitor from the Department of Environmental Quality shows just how much things have improved, even in places where fires are still raging.

Randy Craig / Idaho Fish and Game

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.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Southwest Idaho’s nearly 300,000 acre Soda Fire is the largest this year in areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Most of the burned area was habitat for the sage grouse, the bird whose status as a contender for the Endangered Species List could affect ranching, recreation and energy production in 11 western states. That is why the national director of the BLM was in Boise Wednesday to talk about rehabilitating that land.

J. Alleman / Bureau of Land Management

The Soda Fire was officially contained this week, at 445 square miles. Now thoughts turn to reclaiming the landscape southwest of Boise.

A team of 40 specialists spent five days in the field, surveying the burned area. Their goal is to find and fight threats to life, property and resources over the next three years.

T.J. Clifford is the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team Leader for the Soda Fire. The team is working for the Bureau of Land Management but is made up of people from multiple agencies.

Soda Fire

Wild horses that survived the Soda Fire now face another threat: starvation, after the fire burned their food supply. The Bureau of Land Management plans to rescue those animals and feed and house them until the landscape can recover.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

More than 70 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand arrived in Boise Sunday to help fight wildfires burning throughout the Northwest. They are currently at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise for training and will deploy later this week. Area fire managers requested their help last week, following a rash of large fires that have stretched American resources very thin.

Boise National Forest

Australian and New Zealand firefighters have arrived in the United States and on Monday prepared to fan out to help fight wildfires burning in several western states.

The 70 firefighters are scheduled to receive protective equipment at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, where an air quality alert is in effect due to smoke from regional wildfires.

Nicholas D. / Flickr

Smoke from wildfires continues to plague the Treasure Valley. Forecasters say things will get worse before they get better.

Winds are out of the northwest Friday and expected to be again Saturday. That will actually bring more smoke into the Treasure Valley.

Valerie Mills is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boise.

Boise National Forest

Three firefighters died after their vehicle crashed and was likely caught by flames as they battled a blaze in Washington State yesterday. Four other firefighters were injured.

The National Interagency Fire Center (NFIC) says 13 people have died battling the fires this year.

Driving is one of the leading causes of death for wildland firefighters. That can include driving to or from a fire, as well as on the fire line.

Randy Eardley of NFIC says every death is mourned.


Among the images of destruction that have come from the wildfires tearing up the West is one showing an act of kindness by a family of dogs in Idaho.

The photo, taken in wildfire-ravaged Kamiah by Louis Armstrong on Monday, shows a sheep dog and two puppies standing guard at the body of a fawn.

Armstrong was checking out his family's 300 acres after the wildfire ripped through the area, when he noticed his neighbor's dogs protecting the body and snapped the photo.

U.S. Forest Service

Smoky skies, from dozens of western wildfires, have prompted the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to issue an air quality advisory for the entire state of Idaho.

Such advisories are typically issued for individual counties or cities.

Boise National Forest

Dozens of large wildfires are burning uncontained this week across several Western states. With so many fires, there are not nearly enough resources to go around.  Now, military personnel are being brought in to help fight fires.


Forest Service researchers are taking a closer look at how wildfire smoke impacts the people most exposed to it. A five-year study will monitor the carbon monoxide levels of firefighters around the country.

Of the 15 large fires in Idaho, nine are burning in the northern part of the state. They run from the Canadian border south to the Nez-Perce-Clearwater National Forest, and fire officials say it’s unlike any season in the last century.

Crews from all across the country are fighting fires in Idaho. Most of the blazes started from lightning strikes last week. The Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s spokesperson, Jay Kirchner, says this year is record breaking.