Hundreds of residents in the mountain community of Featherville packed belongings Wednesday and planned to clear out.
Its not a question of if, but when, Boise National Forest Spokesman Dave Olson said.
The Trinity Ridge Fire has scorched more than 100 square miles in the past two weeks. Its burning at a healthy clip right toward Featherville and Pine, recreation getaways 105 miles northeast of Boise. The road to the towns was closed to incoming traffic at 5 p.m. Wednesday but Elmore County sheriffs officials decided to reopen it from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.
Sheriffs officials also advised residents of both towns to pack up papers, photos, medications and other important items and to make arrangements for pets. Sheriff Rick Layher is expected to consult with fire officials before deciding on an official evacuation.
Gov. Butch Otter declared a disaster, meaning the state can get assistance from the Idaho National Guard and seek federal grants to offset the costs of protecting private property and businesses.
Lorie Winmill, a 44-year-old who works at Cyndies Featherville Cafe, was emotional Wednesday as she loaded her vehicle, consoled her sobbing 4-year-old granddaughter, Lizzie, and prepared to stay with friends elsewhere.
This is the only home Lizzie has ever known, Winmill said.
Some fire crews changed tactics from working on fire lines to protecting structures in Featherville and Pine, while air support worked to slow the blazes approach.
There are about 900 structures in Featherville, about 500 of which are houses. The majority of those are second homes for people in other parts of the state, fire officials say.
In Bellevue, meanwhile, the Red Cross was setting up a shelter Wednesday for potential evacuees from the Halstead Fire, burning near Stanley. Fire officials encouraged residents along Idaho 75 from Joes Gulch to Sunbeam to leave their homes earlier this week.
Food, clothing and temporary housing will be available for people who show up at the shelter at 3098 Cedar Street in Bellevue, which is just south of Hailey on 75, said Red Cross spokeswoman Barbara Fawcett.
Fire crews are battling a total of nine big blazes in Idaho, including one in the Salmon-Challis National Forest that stranded 250 rafters floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Authorities closed a backcountry access road due to falling boulders and debris, and some of the floaters were stuck for two days before authorities began shuttling them out Wednesday.
Wildfires also are tormenting homeowners in Washington, Oregon and California, as hot, arid conditions keep crews busier than usual across the region.
Jennifer Smith of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said more wildfires are occurring in the West this year than last and said the nations blazes have gotten bigger.
As of Wednesday, 42,933 wildfires had been reported in the U.S. this season, burning 6.4 million acres. The 10-year average is 52,535 fires covering only 5 million acres, she said.
Nevada has been hammered, and Idaho has some big ones that are going to burn until the snow falls, Smith said.
In central Washington, hundreds of firefighters used planes, helicopters and bulldozers to battle a large blaze. Its still unknown exactly how extensive the property damage is.
In Oregon, four major blazes have been burning since a series of lightning storms last week. Firefighters strengthened lines protecting about 20 rural homes outside Lakeview, but an evacuation advisory remained in force for those and a dozen more.