The U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets in southern Idaho, southwestern Wyoming, Nevada, Utah and a small portion of eastern California because of wildfire and public safety concerns.

Intermountain Region Forester Nora Rasure issued the ban that started Wednesday and runs through July 22, 2015, on national forest lands.

Some target shooters use exploding targets because they contain chemicals that mix when struck by a bullet and create a loud bang and big puff of smoke.

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On average, nine fires spark each year along Interstate 84, burning more than 1,000 acres. Now, the Bureau of Land Management is partnering with various agencies to cut down on the risk of roadside wildfires.

Fire officials are building a firebreak along a 10-mile stretch of the highway to keep fire starts from trailer chains or hot mufflers to a minimum.

Washington Fire Leaves Thousands Without AC, Gas, ATMs

Jul 21, 2014

The Carlton Complex fire, the most destructive wildfire currently burning in the Northwest, has left thousands of people without air conditioning and refrigeration. It has closed gas stations and shut down ATMs in north-central Washington.

A blaze in Okanogan County, Washington, that Governor Jay Inslee called a “firestorm” has destroyed around 100 homes. Now, Inslee says 1,000 National Guard troops will take a crash-course in wildfire fighting so they can be deployed to central Washington fires.

As firefighters work to contain wildfires burning in Idaho and the West, an animated Disney movie opens this weekend portraying what those wildland firefighters do in real life. Disney’s "Planes: Fire & Rescue" isn’t exactly an action movie,  it’s a cartoon about anthropomorphic talking airplanes.

Blaine County's Preacher Fire Nears Containment

Jul 18, 2014
Preacher fire, wildfire
Courtesy Bureau of Land Management

This story was updated at 10:00 a.m. July 18, 2014

The Preacher Fire, burning in Blaine County, is now 60 percent contained and fire managers expect full containment Friday night. 

The lightning-caused fire sparked July 14 and has since grown to nearly 34,000 acres.

The fire is burning in grass and brush. A red flag warning expected Friday means winds could pick up and humidity can drop, making a fire more likely to flare up.

This story was updated at 6:10 p.m. July 16, 2014

Whiskey complex, wildfires
Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

Fire officials working to contain and control the Whiskey Complex wildfires burning near Garden Valley, Idaho say conditions on the ground are more like late August, not mid July. "This demonstrates how the very dry vegetation challenges the suppression efforts," spokesperson Dave Olson writes.

As Boise Is Surrounded By Wildfires, Smoke Could Be Here For Weeks

Jul 17, 2014
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Smoke is settling in the Treasure Valley from wildfires burning in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Canada. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is forecasting moderate to unhealthy air conditions for the next couple of days. 

"We’ll see higher levels in the early morning hours and before lunch," says DEQ's Michael Toole, "and hopefully if that pattern continues, we’ll see clearing in the afternoons which will give us some relief."

Whiskey complex, wildfires
Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

This story was updated at 9:41 a.m. July 17, 2014

The Whiskey Complex wildfire burning in Boise County has grown to 4,500 acres and could expand today because of forecast westerly winds.

The Boise National Forest reports hot temperatures and dry fuels have been a challenge for firefighters working to contain the Complex. It's estimated at 3 percent contained.

Voluntary evacuations are still in place for residents in Pioneerville and those along the South Fork Payette River road.

Here's an update from the Boise National Forest:

Courtesy of Chelan County Emergency Management

Fire crews across the Northwest are dealing with sizzling hot temperatures not just from flames, but also a general heat wave.

You can't wear shorts and a T-shirt to a firefight. So how do you stay cool and functional on the fire line when the thermometer is pushing triple digits? U.S. Forest Service spokesman Joe Anderson says "the main thing is to stay hydrated" and pace yourself.

Triple-digit temperatures are expected to complicate the effort to battle The Mills Canyon fire in central Washington.  

forests, research, wildfires, colorado
Philip Higuera / University of Idaho

Fire season has come alive in the Northwest. On Monday, 20 homes in Idaho's Sun Valley area were briefly under evacuation when a fire broke out in a nearby canyon. A 5,000-acre fire north of Wenatchee, Washington, continues to threaten houses in the area.

Fires can be devastating to people's lives. But according to new research, at least certain types of forests recovery fairly quickly.

Whether it’s due to negligence or arson, thousands of wildfires each year are caused by humans. And the person or business who starts a fire can expect a bill.

USDA / Flickr Creative Commons

Blaine County Sheriff officials say a central Idaho wildfire that caused 20 homes to be evacuated was started by an 18-year-old man lighting fireworks on private property.

The sheriff's office says no charges have been filed but an investigation is ongoing. The office has not yet released the man's name.

Officials say the teenager confessed to causing the 728-acre Colorado Gulch Fire —which started last Sunday— after investigators found fireworks where the blaze first sparked.

Colorado Gulch Fire
Andrew Kane / Backcountry Image Productions

This story was updated at 4:26 p.m.

The Blaine County Sheriff's Office has lifted all mandatory evacuation orders for residents near Hailey impacted by the Colorado Gulch Fire.

The sheriff's website says some roads and bridges are still closed, but residents can return.

This story was updated at 4:15 p.m.

Authorities have expanded mandatory evacuation orders as a growing wildfire nears the community of Hailey.

A scathing new report by a group of veteran wildfire experts called Safety Matters says too little has been done to improve firefighter safety since an Arizona fire killed 19 firefighters a year ago. 

Firefighter Travis Turbyfill was killed one year ago by a wildfire after he and fellow members of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots deployed to a fire shelter in an Arizona box canyon. A fierce wind blew the Yarnell Hill Fire over the crew, killing 19.

Douglas Forest Protective Association

The number of acres burned by wildfires across the U.S. so far this year is less than half the 10 year average.

Figures from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise show 865,030 acres have burned this year throughout the country. That’s just 44 percent of the 10-year average. The 25,096 fires are 70 percent of the average.

How Red Squirrels Could Be Changing Western Forests

Jun 23, 2014
squirrel, fire, forests
David Maher / Flickr Creative Commons

The patchy recovery of lodgepole pine trees after the 1988 Yellowstone National Park fire could be due in part to the effects of squirrels.

Research from the University of Wyoming finds red squirrels could be having an impact on how lodgepole pine forests evolve.

Hot and dry conditions are expected to create above-normal wildfire conditions in parts of the Northwest this summer. While relatively few people will have to flee the flames, many more will experience a side effect of the fires: thick, acrid smoke.