Jim and Barb Girard have two vehicles packed with valuables, ready to go at a moments notice if the 430-acre blaze takes an unexpected turn.
Were not unpacking until we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that were OK, Jim Girard said Wednesday afternoon. We have not gotten that message yet.
Fire officials urged the couple Tuesday morning to evacuate the mountaintop home where theyve lived for 25 years. One home in Robie Creek was destroyed by the fire, and 100 homes are threatened.
Its amazing how quickly you parse what is important while packing, said Jim Girard, a self-employed industrial designer.
They sprayed fire-retardant foam on their log house and loaded their pickup with wedding photos and important documents. They parked the truck at a friends house.
The couple decided to spend the night at their home, but they didnt get much sleep. They watched in awe as firefighters fought the blaze on a ridge across the canyon from their house.
Around 10 oclock, all of a sudden, we saw it breach the ridge and saw it coming down the ridge, Jim Girard said. Scared the daylights out of us. They were fighting a battle up there.
The Karney Fire which apparently was intentionally set was reported just before 4:30 p.m. Monday. It burned more than 80 acres in Robie Creek that night and grew to more than 300 acres Tuesday.
The fire has threatened the western edge of the Wilderness Ranch housing development, a 20-mile drive from Boise on Idaho 21, coming to within a quarter-mile of homes. Late Tuesday, firefighters set intentional fires to burn fuels around homes and entry points in the subdivision closest to the blaze, and that kept the flames at bay.
QUICK TRIPS HOME
Concerned residents rushed home to assess conditions and pack clothes and other items, in case they werent allowed back in. Christy Rousset was one of six teachers and staff released from work at Idaho City schools.
I had a yearful of stress yesterday, said the first-grade teacher, whose home on Mores Creek Circle isnt in an area immediately threatened. Today is more calm because I havent been home, and I have no information.
She packed up a borrowed vehicle with family belongings Tuesday, including items for her 3-year-old son, and parked it in a friends garage. Her husband, Terry, has missed two days of work helping firefighters battling the blaze.
Despite feeling a little disheveled Wednesday, Rousset saw a silver lining. Ive had so many people come up to me and say, Do you need a place to stay? How can I help you? she said. The outpouring from people its great to know that theres someone to rely on.
CONDITIONS CAN CHANGE
The Idaho City School District has 360 students, and Superintendent John McFarlane said 40 to 50 kids live in areas affected by the fire. The bus stops for Wilderness Ranch, Robie Creek and Daggett Creek have been moved to milepost 21 on Idaho 21, which is the entrance to Mores Creek Rim Ranch.
McFarlane said students might be able to return to their regular stops as soon as Wednesday afternoon; parents will be notified by email and phone. That doesnt mean the fire threat is over, though.
The natural tendency is to want to think that things are going to get better, McFarlane said. Conditions can change, and the winds can pick up. You just dont know. Until the fire is out, you just dont know.
About 220 firefighters are working to suppress the blaze, including a new 45-person fire management crew that took over Wednesday night. Large air tankers and smaller single-engine planes have been dropping retardant while helicopters are dropping water.
The firefighting is complicated by late-summer conditions in the Boise National Forest. Still, officials said the fire was 20 percent contained Wednesday, with a perimeter established. Firefighters planned to patrol that perimeter Wednesday night and focus on hot spots, according to a statement by the Idaho Department of Lands.
Aircraft equipped with infrared tools was set to locate the hottest areas and give that information to fire managers, enabling them to focus attack efforts (Thursday) where intense heat is detected, according to the statement.
The entire fire is surrounded by either hose, handline or dozer line, which acts to prevent the spread of the fire, said Emily Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Lands. They did make very good progress.
One Wilderness Ranch resident who lives on Evergreen Drive told the Statesman that he hasnt heard so many planes since he was in Vietnam.
Girard was surprised by how loud the fire was Tuesday night.
Honest to God, it sounded like a jet engine across the canyon, he said.
You could hear them yelling, you could hear the chain saws going. These people are valiant. I cant tell you what respect I have for the firefighters and the Boise County sheriff. These people were here for us when we needed them.
A shelter for displaced residents set up by the American Red Cross in the Idaho City High School gym was closed Wednesday night. McFarlane said he was unaware of anyone who had sought shelter there largely because the community was helping its own.
I cant tell you how many emails and phone calls Ive received from people who have an extra bedroom, a trailer, a sleeping loft, McFarlane said. To this point, the community has been able to absorb a lot of that.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413, Twitter: @KatyMoeller