For the second time in two summers, a giant wildfire is threatening the Pine-Featherville area, about 100 miles east of Boise. On Sunday night, the Elk Complex was burning up to homes on the west side of Anderson Ranch Reservoir near the Pine airstrip.
The Elk fires size, speed and threat to hundreds of homes and other structures made it the top complex of concern in the nation over the weekend, several fire information officers said Sunday. That means its a priority for resources.
It ran six miles yesterday, said Madonna Lengerich, a spokeswoman for the Elk Complex. The plume was just unbelievably huge yesterday.
It was imposing Sunday, too, an enormous billowing cloud of smoke and ash just over the ridge from Pine.
The smoke from the Elk and Pony complexes, as well as other fires in the region, is affecting air quality in the Treasure Valley. A yellow air quality alert has been issued for Monday, and all outdoor burning is banned in Ada and Canyon counties, and all cities in those counties.
Sunday morning, Elmore County sheriffs deputies went from house to house between Pine and Featherville, from Johnson Bridge to the junction of Pine-Featherville Road.
In the afternoon, residents on Twin Pine Drive on the west side of Anderson Ranch Reservoir were packing vehicles and trailers while firefighters set up structure protection. At 5 p.m., the fire was about a mile and a half away from those homes and the Hayhurst Bed & Breakfast.
Firefighters filled large plastic pumpkins, or pools, with thousands of gallons of water, then connected hoses from the pumpkins to the sprinkler systems.
Diana Whitted, a year-round Pine resident, was packing up valuables but not for herself. Friends who were out of town and couldnt get back in time asked her to grab important documents and irreplaceable items.
Whitted said this years fire feels worse than last years because it spread faster. Others in Pine agreed.
This is horrible, said Danielle Stem, who sat with family and friends in the parking lot of the Pine Resort Cafe & Cocktails. Last years was slow-moving. This year, its on us.
Last summers Trinity Ridge Fire blackened nearly 150,000 acres north of Pine-Featherville. That fire was called fast-moving, and it charred less than 25,000 acres in its first week, according to published reports.
The Elk Complex burned more than 80,000 acres in a little more than three days. Surface winds were light in the Pine area over the last several days, with gusts no greater than 15 mph. But relatively strong southerly transport winds the midlevel winds above the fire site contributed to the blazes growth, National Weather Service lead forecaster Les Colin said.
Temperatures in that area were in the 80s, and the humidity dipped down to around 10 percent on Friday and Saturday. The western flank of the Elk Complex forced evacuations Friday in Prairie, and the eastern flank is whats threatening the Pine-Featherville area.
The other major threat in the region is the Pony Complex, which by Sunday had burned more than 119,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 200 homes in Mayfield.
The Pony Complex destroyed two cabins and an outbuilding in Syrup Creek on Sunday morning, but multiple residences were saved, according to fire officials.
Officials said a shelter for evacuees was set up in Mountain Home, but none could be found on Sunday. Barbara Fawcett, a spokeswoman with the American Red Cross, said a reception area had been set up Friday and Saturday, but it was shut down due to little apparent need.
What we find is that people have family and friends that they can stay with, Fawcett said.
Bronco Motors owner Grant Petersen and his wife, Connie, spent the summers of their youth visiting Pine, and theyve owned a home there for 19 years.
The couple packed treasured possessions, including photo albums, antiques and a door (which has markings of their kids height at different ages), into a trailer Sunday and headed back to Boise.
This year seems more real to us, Grant Petersen said. Added Connie, Its better safe than sorry.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413