Like most days for the past month or so, the air in Boise is full of smoke from nearby wildfires. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has issued a yellow air quality alert for the Treasure Valley for Thursday, meaning air quality is in the moderate or annoying range.
That means most people are OK to be outside,with the exception of those who have respiratory problems.
The air quality index for Boise Thursday is expected to be 80. Anything over 100 moves air quality into the orange level, like last weekend, when the AQI was 125, mostly because because of smoke from nearby wildfires.
If you think Boise is bad, just be glad you arent in the town of Salmon, which had a purple air quality level at 9 a.m. Thursday, with an AQI of 202. Thats two steps up from the orange air quality we had in town last weekend. Purple air means that everyone could experience serious health effects.
Salmon is being covered by smoke from the 196,000 acre Mustang Fire Complex
Idaho Department of Transportation officials say only local drivers can get through a 10-mile portion of Idaho 75 near the Halstead Fire, which remains closed to all other traffic.
Idaho Department of Transportation and Idaho State Police officials closed a 10-mile portion of the highway between Lower Stanley to Gardner Creek late Wednesday because of fire activity.
Anyone who wants to travel through that corridor has to prove they live in the area and then will be led through by a pilot car. All other motorists trying to get to or from the towns of Salmon or Challis must use U.S. 93.
Northwest of Stanley, the 111,838-acre fire is 7 percent contained. The fire is 3 miles northwest of Stanley, burning in a rugged area of the Salmon-Challis National Forest with large areas of beetle-killed trees.
The fire was very active Tuesday and grew 7,200 acres, officials said.
Firefighters will continue to work near Yankee Fork and along the Highway 75 corridor. Flaggers may be on the road between Lower Stanley and Sunbeam because of decreased visibility due to smoke.
Fire crews are working to hold the fire north of Idaho 75 and east of Idaho 21 with hand crews on the ground, supported from the air by four helicopters.
The Halstead Fire was lit by lightning on July 27. After a month of burning, the growth potential for the Halstead Fire is still listed as extreme.
TRINITY RIDGE FIRE
Fire crews are continuing to do burnouts around the town of Featherville and put in firelines at strategic areas around the 138,965-acre Trinity Ridge fire, which has been burning since early August.
On Wednesday, they are focusing on the Wagontown Creek and Green Creek drainages, southwest of Featherville. Fire managers want to be sure the fire doesn't jump the river to the Pine-Featherville corridor.
Dense smoke and other fire-related hazards pose health risks to residents and fire crews. The smoke stays in the air in the afternoons due to inversions, fire managers say.
Evacuations are still in effect in the Featherville area. Pine residents are being allowed limited access from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily without permits, as long as fire conditions allow it.
On Tuesday, a total of 33 vehicles were permitted into Featherville so residents could check their properties. Many were surprised to find homes and surrounding property undamaged, fire managers said Wednesday.
The Elmore County Sheriff's Office is consulting daily with Fire Incident Commander Beth Lund to determine when it will be safe to let Featherville residents in to check personal property, and when they can move back into their homes.
Recreation areas remain closed, so no one towing RVs or ATVs will be allowed in over the Labor Day weekend. Areas below Anderson Ranch dam are unaffected by the closure. Checkpoints are still in place, so residents must show ID and proof of residence.
Featherville has been under an evacuation order since Aug. 18 because of heavy smoke in the area. Residents who have a critical need to reach their property can contact the Elmore County Sheriffs office at 208-590-3845 to ask for access.
The Pine-Featherville Road is closed to all but fire and emergency traffic. An evacuation center for Featherville residents is set up by the Red Cross at the Pine Senior Center and the Pines Resort.
The Trinity Ridge Fire was lit Aug. 3 by a utility vehicle. Since then, at least four Forest Service cabins and four outbuildings have been consumed by flames. About 1,400 firefighters are working on the blaze. The fire is so large there are two Type 1 management crews supervising firefighters one on the north end of the fire and one on the south.
Community meetings are held daily at 10:30 a.m. Get fire information by calling: 208-653-2164.
MUSTANG COMPLEX FIRE EVACUATION WARNING
Lemhi County Sheriffs officials have issued a level 2 evacuation warning for about 75 homeowners near the Idaho/Montana border Wednesday, saying those residents must be fully prepared to leave at a moments notice if the 150,000 acre Mustang Complex wildfire moves their way.
The warning covers homes on both sides of U.S. 93 and residences in the Hull, Hughes, and Sheep Creek drainages, officials said Wednesday.
Sheriffs officials decided to issue the warning because of fire behavior just west of Butcherknife Ridge. Fire officials say while the blaze is not currently moving towards those homes, it could move their quickly if wind changes.
The American Red Cross of Greater Idaho is opening a Welcome Center in Salmon to accommodate residents displaced by the Mustang Complex fire. The Center is in the Salmon Valley Baptist Church at 1140 Cemetery Lane.
There are caseworkers on site to provide evacuees with food and shelter. Additional Red Cross volunteers in Idaho Falls and Pocatello are on standby and more resources are ready to travel to Salmon, if necessary.
The Mustang Complex is now Idahos largest wildfire. It was ignited in late July by lightning in the Salmon/Challis National Forest. Five different wildfires have burned together since then to create one giant blaze. More than 750 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is burning in steep topography and very dry fuels.
No homes have yet been lost in the Mustang Complex.