Wildfires

Widlfires
Ashley Smith / Times-News

The Elk Complex wildfire has already caused hundreds of people to evacuate including those living in the town of Pine.  Tuesday night, the Elmore County Sheriff issued another mandatory evacuation, this time for residents in nearby Featherville.  

Paul Broyles is a deputy incident commander with the team that manages this fire.  He flew over the Fall Creek area west of Pine.  He says 53 structures, including homes, have been lost.  

“The fire was quite intense, quite hot, and I was quite frankly surprised that any homes survived,” he says.

Ashley Smith / Twin Falls Times-News

The incident commander leading the fight against the Elk Complex wildfire near Pine and Featherville says he has a good mix of resources available to fight the fire, and that crews are doing the best they can to protect the towns.

Rich Harvey helped protect these towns from the Trinity Ridge Fire a year ago. He says this year's fire has been much more difficult to fight.

Firefighters, Fire, Crews, Wildfires
Ashley Smith / Times-News

Mandatory evacuations are in place for the central Idaho mountain town of Pine and surrounding communities. That’s because the 125-square-mile Elk Complex wildfire is getting closer. Kimberlee Kruesi is  covering this wildfire for the Times-News in Twin Falls.  

"I'm most struck by the residents' love for this area and true concern," says Kruesi. Sunday night she interviewed people who'd lived in the town of Pine for 15 years. "And they were crying because they knew this area is never going to look the same."

view_camper / Flickr Creative Commons

So far this year, wildfires have burned almost 2.8 million acres across the country. It’s been a deadly year too, with 19 hotshots killed in one Arizona blaze and homes destroyed in states including Colorado and California.

Idaho Statesman

UPDATE 2:03 p.m.: Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has issued a disaster declaration for Elmore County. The declaration allows resources from Boise, Meridian, Eagle and Donnelly to help protect areas that don't have firefighters of their own. The Elk and Pony Complexes continue to threaten communities.

Wildfire, Fire
Courtesy of InciWeb

Update 8:15 a.m.:  The Pony Complex destroyed two cabins and an outbuilding  this morning in Syrup Creek. Evacuations have been ordered. Crews have been working to protect multiple residences in the Syrup Canyon area including Miller Ranch.

The Pony Complex has consumed 119,543 acres and is now 20 percent contained. The communities of Mayfield, Canyon Creek area and the Danskin and Bennett Mountain Lookouts remain evacuated.

Google Maps

The Elmore County Sheriff's Office is going door-to-door this afternoon evacuating people from the small towns of Prairie and the area of Fall Creek north of Mountain Home. 

A spokesperson from the Bureau of Land Management says the mandatory evacuations were issued after a group of fires known as the Elk Complex moved into the area. People are being evacuated to the Elks Lodge in Mountain Home.  

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.”

Update: Hilltop Fire Near Boise Contained At 990 Acres

Aug 6, 2013
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.

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