Crews getting upper hand on Pine Creek Fire

sdeter@idahostatesman.comJuly 17, 2013 

An aggressive night attack kept the 1,560-acre Pine Creek Fire burning northeast of Boise from growing overnight Tuesday, and fire managers said crews are getting closer to containing the fire.

The fire - which started Monday off Grimes Creek Road about three miles north of Idaho 21 - was 20 percent contained Wednesday evening, according to the Idaho Department of Lands. But don't let the small number mislead you about the progress being made.

Crews have made good progress toward containment after coming close to securing the perimeter on the fire's east, south and west flanks, according to Emily Callihan, public information officer for the IDL. Now, Callihan said, crews are translating the efforts that proved successful on the other flanks to the northern flank. Crews are assembling hand lines, whereby personnel on the ground use hand tools to clear vegetation in the path of the fire - essentially robbing the flames of new fuel to burn.

The IDL described Wednesday's fire activity as moderate. Single trees were torching.

Grimes Creek Road was open to local traffic, including residents of the Clear Creek subdivision. But the IDL warned that the road could be closed again at any time because of the danger of rolling rocks and falling limbs. Motorists were still being asked to be particularly cautious while traveling in the area because of smoky conditions and increased fire vehicle traffic.

Officials said activities on Thursday will include removing materials above Grimes Creek Road that could roll down the hill and compromise efforts to contain the fire.

WHERE'S THE SMOKE?

The morning after the fire started, Boise residents got a taste of last year's smoky summer. Many wondered how long they would have to wheeze while they took the dogs for their morning walk.

Not long, as it turned out.

Even under a yellow air quality alert - issued when the air is only moderately sketchy - Boiseans awoke to a much clearer day on Wednesday. It was surprising, given the fact that the fire had nearly doubled in size from Tuesday morning to Tuesday night.

So, what gives?

Callihan explained that for this particular fire, it's a combination of wind patterns, air stability/instability and a lack of new fuels that flames can seek out to eat up.

Callihan likened the fire as it stood Wednesday to a campfire that goes out but is still smoldering.

"It's not a raging forest fire right now," Callihan said. "It's not burning any new fuels that haven't already burned."

LIGHTNING HAMMERS NORTHWEST

Thunderstorms Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in the Northwest generated about 8,000 lightning strikes in Idaho, Washington and Oregon, with most of them in Idaho, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.

A series of thunderstorms that moved across southern and central Idaho Tuesday sparked more than a dozen new wildfires in state and federal forests.

Dozens of Ada County residents were evacuated from their homes when lightning sparked a 724-acre blaze off Idaho 16 near the Firebird Raceway. No homes were lost, and no injuries were reported.

Tuesday night’s storm sparked at least 12 new fires in the Boise National Forest. More than 4,000 lightning strikes were reported during the course of the storm, officials said.

The fires range in size from less than 1 acre to 400 acres:

• The largest fire is the Ridge Fire, and it was burning 400 acres about 15 miles north of Lowman. It had rapidly increased in size since it was first spotted.

• The Summit Fire was burning on 60 acres about 14 miles northeast of Idaho City and four miles north of the Pilot Peak Lookout.

• The 2 1/2-acre Pilot Fire was 14 miles east of Idaho City and near the Pilot Peak Lookout.Containment is expected Thursday evening.

• The 1 1/2-acre Easley Fire near the Terrace Lakes subdivision in Crouch threatened homes. It was quickly knocked down by Garden Valley Fire Department and Boise National Forest crews and single-engine air tankers and heading toward containment.

• The 1-acre Eggers Fire was 20 miles north of Crouch and about 2 miles north of the Silver Creek recreation area. It was expected to be contained Wednesday night.

• The Deadwood Fire, five miles south of Deadwood Reservoir, had burned less than 1 acre.

The six other fires were 1 acre or less and were contained by Wednesday evening.

Crews also made more aggressive initial attacks on eight new blazes reported in the Payette National Forest, and officials expected to discover even more fires as temperatures increase and hot and dry conditions persist into early next week.

Sean Deter: 377-6450; Twitter: IDS_Deter

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Below is a map of the approximate locations of the larger fires currently burning in the Boise National Forest.


View Wildfires in a larger map

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