Wildfires

wildfires, highway 20, road closure
Google Maps

UPDATE 3:27 p.m.: U.S. Highway 20 has reopened after closing for much of the day. BLM fire managers are still working to contain several fires in the area.

ORIGINAL POST: A 56-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 20 is closed north of Mountain Home after lighting sparked several fires last night. The Bureau of Land Management reports the Milemarker 111 fire has burned about 12,000 acres, and is burning next to the highway. The road is closed from Mountain Home to 1st Street West in Fairfield, and it's not clear when the road will reopen.

Lodgepole, Fire
Courtesy of InciWeb

UPDATE 9:34 a.m.:  The McCan fire near Fairfield now has 154 people battling the blaze. The Associated Press reports that fire managers predict they'll have the fire contained Saturday night and controlled on Monday.

As of this morning, the Boise National Forest reports that a total of 18 fires were sparked from lighting Thursday night. The majority of these fires are less than 1 acre in size and are being managed by the Boise National Forest and/or the Bureau of Land Management.

BLM, land, outdoors
Pete Zimosky / Idaho Statesman

Idaho’s state director for the Bureau of Land Management is now running the daily operations for the entire federal agency. Steve Ellis is in Washington D.C. temporarily serving as acting deputy director. 

It’s a job he did for a few weeks back in 2011. This time around, Ellis will be in the agency’s number two position until November.

His temporary home is an apartment in Arlington, VA., far away from his family and horses back in Boise. “I’ve had to get used to taking the subway to work again,” he chuckles over the phone in a recent interview.

A firefighter has died in a truck accident on a one-lane mountain road in Southern Oregon.

Jesse A. Trader was 19-years-old. He was working for a company that was contracted to fight the Big Windy Complex of Fires south of the Rogue River.

Trader’s mother, Gigi Trader says he was a responsible kid who dreamed of firefighting.  “He was about the best kid anybody could ever have. Great student, just finished his first year of college.”

wildfire, hilltop fire
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

UPDATE 11:05 a.m.: The Bureau of Land Management says the Hilltop fire burning southeast of Boise off Highway 21 was fully contained by 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Fire managers say hotspots prevented them from reaching containment overnight, as they originally expected.

The BLM says the perimeter of the fire hasn't grown, but thanks to better mapping, acres burned is now estimated at 990.

UPDATE 9:00 p.m.: The Bureau of Land Management expects the Hilltop fire to be fully contained within the next two hours.

Boise National Forest

The Boise National Forest has been a focal point of fire activity this year. The drought has increased the chance for extreme fires to act unpredictably. Sometimes, previously burned areas are the best way to stop the advance of these dangerous blazes – especially those that could endanger people and property.

The Ridge Fire is one of the blazes that’s benefited from previously burned areas. This fire has been burning for more than three weeks near the town of Lowman in the Boise National Forest.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Crews from all over the West and Canada are in Idaho this summer to help fight the state’s wildfires.  Collaboration is common when it comes to fire suppression. But this summer’s roster also includes an east coast air tanker unit that’s still recovering from the deaths of four crew members last year.

North Carolina probably wouldn’t be the first place you’d go to find expert crews to battle wildfires in rugged terrain. “Well believe it or not, we do have mountains,” laughs Lt. Col. Harkey of the North Carolina Air National Guard. “We do have the Appalachian Mountains near us.”

Falling Tree Kills Firefighter In Central Oregon

Aug 2, 2013
Douglas Forest Protective Association

Authorities are identifying the wildland firefighter who was killed Thursday outside the town of Sisters as John Hammack of Central Oregon. Another firefighter was injured in the accident and was taken to a local hospital.

On Wednesday night, the skies over Central Oregon were lit up by more than 700 lightning strikes. Hammick was a part of a tree falling team helping put out new fire starts. He was working with 45-year-old Norman Crawford of Sisters when a tree they were cutting fell on them.

U.S. Air Force / Flickr Creative Commons

It's the first day of August, and wildfire season has already cost Idaho $8.5 million. With two more months of fire activity likely, it's looking like the state will spend more than it did last year to fight fires.

So why the increase in fire fighting costs so early in the summer? The answer lies partly with the kind of fires the state is battling.

StoryCorps

When wildfire hits the Foothills of the Treasure Valley, everyone who lives there goes on alert.  Three years ago, Nancy Suiter felt that fear when lightning struck the ground near Highway 16. 

A wildfire started in the Eagle foothills and the home Suiter and her husband had built 32 years before was in the path of the flames.  Her daughter Josie Newton took her mother to the StoryCorps booth in Boise to talk about that day.

Bureau of Land Management Idaho

It’s the last day of July, and Idaho’s wildfire season is keeping land managers busy. There are currently seven large fires burning in the state.

Jessica Gardetto is with the Bureau of Land Management Idaho office. She says that compared to last year’s record-breaking fire season, Idaho’s rangeland fire picture looks normal.

Pacific NW Team 2 IMT

Smoke from wildfires is creating poor breathing conditions in parts of the Northwest. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says the air has reached "very unhealthy" levels in parts of southwest Oregon. That's due to a series of wildfires that have led to some evacuations but so far have caused very little property damage. The lingering smoke is the talk of the town in Grants Pass today.

USDS Forest Service

A fire that started Saturday morning near Wenatchee, Wash., has now burned more than 60 square miles in rugged terrain. The fire has burned five homes and the residents of another 60 have been told to evacuate. It's one of nearly two-dozen major fires now burning across the Northwest.

Forecasters predicted a higher-than-normal fire season this year in parts of the region.

Wildfire, fire fighter
U.S. Forest Service

Forest managers are ordering heightened fire restrictions on public and private land in central and southwestern Idaho, a response to hot, dry conditions and very high wildfire danger.

Meanwhile, numerous fires continue to burn in Idaho, nearly all of them are in remote areas where no structures are threatened.

Boise National Forest

Update, 5:00 AM Tuesday:  BLM officials now say crews hope to have the Fir Grove Fire contained by Tuesday evening.  The latest estimates of burned acreage now put the fire at approximately 7150 acres.  Initially, fire officials had estimated the fire's size at more than 8500 acres.

Original post:  Sunday afternoon, the Fir Grove Fire sprang up near Gooding, forcing the partial closure of Highway 46 and Highway 20.

A chain-link fence dragging from a pick-up truck turned into a mobile fire starter on Saturday as the combination touched off 19 small fires on a rural highway in southwestern Idaho.

The scenario seems improbable: A truck traveling along State Highway 52 between Horseshoe Bend and the rural hamlet of Montour had a chain link fence stuck to its bed.

It's late July, of course, so the grass and vegetation along the side of the road is naturally tinder-dry.

Put the two together and you have the recipe for multiple roadside fires.

Ken Loda / Great Basin Incident Management Team 7

Update 10:10 a.m. : The fire has grown to 6,559 acres Friday. Fire managers say they made some progress with fire lines Thursday. The blaze is 5 percent contained. Four more hotshot crews were added to the roster of firefighters.

Flickr Creative Commons

The popular Sawtooth Mountain getaway, Redfish Lake Lodge, is expected to reopen Thursday after it was evacuated this week because of a nearby wildfire.

Lake Lodge is usually fully booked through July and August. They had a full house this week when the 210 Road Fire forced evacuations.

Wildfires, Pine Creek Fire
Boise National Forest

Wildfires continued burning across southern and central Idaho over the weekend, with several new fires also igniting. 

The Ridge Fire north of Lowman in the Boise National Forest has now burned about 3,000 acres. Officials say it's 7 percent contained. Despite predictions Friday of significant growth, the fire did not grow Sunday.

Dave Olson / Boise National Forest

Those managing the fight against a fire burning in the Boise National Forest near Lowman say the fire could burn for weeks. 

Lightning started the Ridge Fire Tuesday evening about 15 miles north of Lowman. It’s estimated to have burned nearly 900 acres. But Boise National Forest spokesman Dave Olson says that number is expected to increase quickly.

“We’re anticipating that acreages are doubling each day,” Olson says. "So if conditions continue as they are, I think we could see increases in acreages fairly substantially each day into the future.”

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