PINE — The Elk Complex wildfires have claimed 38 homes and 43 outbuildings, according to fire managers.
All 38 homes burned were located in the Fall Creek area, along the western shore of Anderson Ranch Reservoir, said Lisa Keibler, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.
The houses were lost during the first 48 hours after the fire started, she said.
It was during the quick-moving time when it had the fuels and the erratic fire behavior, she said.
Fallen trees across the road leading to Fall Creek made it impossible to get to the area and assess the damage until recently, she said. Elmore County Sheriffs Office deputies went to the scene to count the burned and damaged structures.
They do the assessment, theyre the ones who go in and take a look [and] contact the owners, Keibler said.
Firefighters were in the area when the homes burned, but it was unclear whether or not they were on scene.
Crews are alert for erratic fire behavior Thursday after the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the Boise National Forest and parts of the Payette and Sawtooth forests. The warning, starting at noon, means weather conditions could aggravate existing fires or contribute to new ones starting. The forecast calls for extremely low humidity, high temperatures and unstable, dry air.
The estimated cost to fight the Elk Complex Fire had reached $2.7 million by Wednesday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Home and cabin owners sought updates on their properties after the Tuesday evening news that at least 53 structures burned in Fall Creek. The nearly 112,000-acre wildfire has claimed a total of 81 structures, fire managers said.
It took days for law enforcement to assess the damage, given unstable conditions left in the wake of the flames. The Elmore County Sheriffs Office set up a phone number Wednesday for property owners to call. The number (208) 653-2505 will be staffed daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; property owners can also email email@example.com.
Property owners could be escorted into the area as early as Monday, according to the sheriffs office. A community meeting for more information has been set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Elks Lodge in Mountain Home, 325 S. 3rd W.
The lightning-ignited fire became the top priority in the nation this week. It continues to threaten nearby Pine and Featherville, where crews are doing burnout operations to push the flames farther north, into an area that burned last year.
VIP visit: Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell will tour the Elk Complex Friday afternoon. Both officials also will visit the nearly 24,000-acre Beaver Creek Fire and take media questions at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, according to a notice from Otters office.
Air quality: Wildfire smoke continued to pour out across southern and central Idaho. Smoke from the Beaver Creek Fire canceled a Josh Ritter concert in Sun Valley. Air quality Thursday in the Treasure Valley is predicted to be yellow, or moderate, with outdoor burning prohibited everywhere in Ada and Canyon counties.
Outages: Idaho Power crews continued to try to repair damage to the utilitys system. Power was restored Wednesday to the Anderson Ranch Bluffs subdivision, the Lester Creek area and the town of Prairie, with Fall Creek expected to join that list. Pine could have electric service again by Thursday evening, but crews still cant reach the area north of Featherville, the utility announced in a press release. For updates, call 208-388-2323, or 800-488-6150 from outside the Treasure Valley.