Wildfires

Wildfire, fire fighter
U.S. Forest Service

Rain across much of southwestern and central Idaho's mountains put a dent in wildfires that have kept firefighters busy for weeks.

On the Weiser Complex Fire along the Snake River's Brownlee Reservoir, Wednesday's moisture bolstered crews' confidence about making significant progress toward containing the blaze that's charred some 40 square miles.

And in central Idaho near Featherville, similar downpours helped firefighters gain ground and more aggressively push back the Kelley Fire, which has burned about 26 square miles.

Mel Meier / InciWeb

The Beaver Creek Fire burned more than 174 square miles and endangered the towns of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley last month. The once-enormous blaze is fully contained.

But residents in the area now have to be on alert for another danger: flash floods and mudslides over the charred land. The Times-News reports that 18 inches of mud came into the Croy Creek Canyon area overnight.

National Weather Service warned Idaho residents traveling or recreating on National Forest lands to be wary of possible flash flooding, as recent wildfires have scorched what ordinarily would have been rain-sopping vegetation from hillsides.

A flash flood watch goes into effect at midnight and continues through Tuesday on Boise National Forest areas burned by the massive Elk, Pony and Little Queens fires.

InciWeb

Aerial attacks are continuing Friday morning on two new fires burning along the Idaho-Oregon border, near Brownlee Reservoir on the Snake River. 

The Hells Canyon 1 Fire and the Raft Fire started with lighting strikes Thursday afternoon. As of Friday morning, they’d burned 4,500 acres. They’ll burn together and form the Wesier Complex and be managed by a Type Two Incident Command team.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Actor and part-time Idaho resident Bruce Willis is showing his gratitude to the firefighters who worked the Beaver Creek Fire near Sun Valley by catering meals for them beginning Friday.

Entertainment news outlet ETOnline.com says Willis is also footing the bill for firefighters' snacks as they move to other fires.

The same weather patterns that are making the Rim Fire a challenge for firefighters in California have been moving up through parts of the Northwest. Specifically, through central Idaho. Fire managers say the forests there are ripe for fire, and more lightning is in the forecast this week.

The fact that massive fires are raging both in California and in Idaho is no coincidence, according to Robyn Broyles. She's with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

U.S. Forest Service

So far this year 1,058 wildfires have burned in Idaho, and we've reported on many of them. But with new fires starting every week – sometimes within a few hours –  it’s hard to keep straight which fires are which. Names like the Elk Complex and the Little Queens Fire can seem arbitrary. But are they?

Bronwyn Nickel / Blaine County Sheriff's Office

As wildland firefighters fought the Beaver Creek fire in the Wood River Valley last week, people in the area looked for a way to help. They wanted to show their thanks to the firefighters who protected their homes.

The Blaine County Sheriff’s office decided to ask for bandana donations. Since the drive started, they have received between 8,000-9,000 bandanas from people around the country.

InciWeb / http://www.inciweb.org/incident/3635/

The Beaver Creek fire is now 67 percent contained. The jump in fire line construction comes after several days of milder weather, including overnight rain that helped control the flames.

Weather forecasters are predicting more lightning throughout the Northwest over the next few days. That could make things tougher for fire fighters, who are already battling several large wildfires throughout the region.

Boise National Forest

So far this year, 601,640 acres have burned in Idaho wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center reports there are 10 large wildfires burning in the state, including some that have caused evacuations. With so much quickly-changing fire information, here's an update on some of the wildfires we've been talking about recently. 

Beaver Creek Fire, Wildfires
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Not everyone fled Sun Valley, Idaho, when the huge Beaver Creek wildfire threatened the swanky resort area. Many locals remained in the surrounding communities and kept the stores, restaurants and gas stations open.

Now, firefighters are gaining the upper hand. The smoke is clearing. But without the return of vacationers, many locals worry the real disaster is economic – and that one is just beginning.

The fire raging near Sun Valley, Idaho, is serving as a wake-up call for homeowners in fire-prone areas across the Northwest. The 106,000-acre Beaver Creek Fire has burned one house.

And fire managers say it’s lucky they didn't lose more.

Steven Garman lives outside of Ketchum, Idaho. He's a retired firefighter. Garman says like many homes in the area, his house was not designed to be fire resistant.

Businesses around Sun Valley, Idaho worry the massive Beaver Creek fire will have a big impact on the tourist-dependent economy of central Idaho. Several events have already been canceled because of the blaze.

This is the new worry by business owners. First of course was the threat of fire. And now there’s the threat of fire or at least the perceived threat of it will continue to keep away tourists through a really crucial part of their business cycle.

Ashley Smith / Times-News

Update, 12:40 p.m.: The mandatory evacuation order has been lifted for residents from the hospital bridge south to East Fork Road on the east side of Highway 75. This includes residents of Cold Springs, Gimlet, and the Meadows.

The Blaine County sheriff's office says these areas will remain on pre-evacuation notice, which means they should be ready to evacuate if necessary.

Firefighters are responding to the Hilltop Alley Fire near Lucky Peak.  The fire has shut down Idaho Highway 21 in both directions between Lucky Peak Dam Road and Highland Valley Road.

David Olson with the Boise National Forest says the fire has burned 300 acres and destroyed two outbuildings.  Crews are working to protect the Lucky Peak helibase and nursery.

Air tankers, two helicopters, and several engines are fighting the fire which started Tuesday afternoon.  Olson says firefighters are making progress, but the fire is being fanned by gusty winds.

The estimated cost of fighting Idaho’s Beaver Creek Fire now tops more than $11 million. Fire crews near Sun Valley, Idaho say the blaze has become manageable but is a long way from contained.

The mood at Baker’s Spike camp has changed almost over night. There is now a feeling of optimism. Crews are feeling like they can take an offensive stance against the fire instead of a defensive one. They have enough resources now where they can plan ahead and anticipate where the fire might go next, while they’re also attacking the fire.

Ashley Smith / Twin Falls Times-News

Update Aug. 20, 3:06 p.m.: More Blaine County residents can return home who were forced to evacuate because of the Beaver Creek Fire.

The latest update from the Blaine County sheriff's office reiterates that people who are allowed to go back are still under a pre-evacuation notice and should still be prepared to evacuate.

Wildfires
Ashley Smith / The Times-News

U.S. wildfire managers have raised the national preparedness level to its highest designation for the first time in five years. They say it reflects a very high level of fire activity. 

Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise say nearly 32,000 wildfires have burned 3.4 million acres this year. That might sound like a lot, but it’s only 60 percent of the country’s 10-year average.

Ashley Smith / Twin Falls Times-News

Update 10:59 a.m.:  Fire managers say the cost of fighting the Beaver Creek Fire is now at $11,587,000.  The total reflects costs through 5:00 p.m. Monday.  The number is nearly $700,000 higher than the figure first announced at a briefing in fire camp Tuesday morning.

The Associated Press reported the correct figure Tuesday morning.  The AP story also included news of a change in the national wildfire preparedness level:

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