Hundreds of lightning strikes across the region spark small wildfires, including one north of Eagle

July 3, 2013 

The Ada County Sheriff's Office sent out this image of a helicopter battling the Willow Creek Fire on Twitter.

Storm cells that moved through the Treasure Valley late Tuesday and early Wednesday sparked two wildfires in Owyhee County, two in Boise County and possibly one in Ada County. About 300 strikes were recorded in the Owyhee Mountains, and another 368 were seen in eastern Oregon, according to the National Weather Service.

More lighting is expected today, as storm cells continue to move through the region. A red flag warning is in effect for areas south of the Treasure Valley, meaning conditions are ripe for extreme fire behavior.

A yellow air quality alert remains in effect in the Treasure Valley. Conditions are expected to remain in the moderate category, though wildfires in the region could deteriorate air quality, said Michael Toole, regional airshed coordinator for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

The storms Tuesday night did drop some rain, though none was recorded at the Boise Airport. The forecasted high for Boise today is 101, well below the record high of 106.

Eagle firefighters are working with Boise BLM crews on a 150-acre fire near Willow Creek, about 6 miles north of Eagle near Willow Creek and Knob Hill roads. The BLM has sent two engines, two dozers, one helicopter, one heavy air tanker, and one single engine air tanker. The cause of the fire hasn't yet been determined, but lightning is suspected, said BLM fire information officer Carrie Bilbao.

The Willow Creek Fire is burning eastward. Just before noon, no structures were threatened but structure protection had been ordered. The Ada County Sheriff's Office has notified between 250 and 500 homeowners in the area about the nearby flames.

Boise, Meridian and Star fire crews are also helping fight the flames. Resources include one plane and one helicopter from the BLM. Firefighters will work through the evening and the night on the fire, according to the sheriff's office.

At least two fires were sparked in Owyhee County overnight. A 100-acre fire about 9 miles south of Mountain Home — called the Groot Fire — was put out by firefighters from Mountain Home. They are watching the area today to ensure there's no flareups.

BLM crews are working Wednesday on the 350-acre Castle Fire near Triangle. Two engines, a water tender and a dozer have been dispatched to the scene. No structures are threatened by the fire.

There are several wildfires burning in the Boise National Forest, including the 30-acre Lime Creek Fire, according to Boise National Forest spokesman David Olson. That fire began Tuesday morning, and two new fires were discovered Wednesday morning. One is north of the Lime Creek Fire, and the other is north of Lucky Peak Reservoir.

Five smokejumpers from McCall attacked the Lime Creek Fire on Tuesday. A 20-person hand crew is being shuttled to the Wednesday, bringing the total number of firefighters on the fire to about 25. A heavy lift helicopter with a water bucket will assist the ground forces, and two single engine air tankers are available as needed.

In eastern Oregon, more resources have been deployed to a large fire that has been burning for two days near the Owyhee Dam. That fire, which was started by lighting on Monday, had grown to 40,000 acres by Wednesday morning. About 240 people are working the fire.

Spokesman Tim Johnson told the Associated Press Wednesday that flames are within a few hundred yards of structures at the state park.

A fire that began Monday night south of Lucky Peak Reservoir, near Turner Gulch, has been contained. Crews are expected to be released from the 595-acre Turner Fire at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Due to the heat wave, dry conditions, possible lightning from passing storms and Fourth of July fireworks, the Boise Fire Department is putting on an extra 10 firefighters to run brush rigs over the next couple of days, if needed. It's a precaution due to conditions, fire department spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said.

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