Mandatory evacuation ordered for residents of another Idaho mountain town

kterhune@idahostatesman.comAugust 19, 2013 

This photo from the town of Atlanta's Twitter account shows the Little Queens Fire burning near the town of 30.


— Residents of Atlanta will be under a mandatory evacuation order beginning at noon Monday because of the 2,000-acre Little Queens Fire burning near the town.

The Little Queens Fire is believed to be human-caused and was burning six miles northwest of Atlanta on Sunday night. The blaze was originally burning north away from the town, but that changed Sunday, a U.S. Forest Service Official said.

“About four o'clock yesterday afternoon, the winds came up and the south end of the fire started getting very hot and moving closer down into Atlanta,” spokeswoman Julie Thomas said.

Several structures are currently threatened by the blaze, Thomas said. A town meeting will be held at 11:30 a.m. at the Atlanta Fire Station.

“Our trigger point was crossed, and that's when we decided to get ahold of the sheriff and do what we could to make people safe,” she said.

There are 30 to 40 full-time residents of the unincorporated town, Thomas said. All of them have been asked to leave until the danger has passed, according to an Elmore County Sheriff's Office dispatcher.

Atlanta resident Amy O’Brien said that people in town were starting to get nervous. She had yet to see firetrucks, crews, or other resources, and worried that the Beaver Creek Fire was drawing all the resources, leaving little help for the small town.

“We feel like if we did have resources, the fire could be stopped where it is right now,” she said. “It’s coming up this draw that is just full of trees and downed timber. It’s like our worst case scenario for the town.”

The resident did see a helicopter flying over the fire Sunday night, she said, and hopes more will come.

O’Brien said she planned to evacuate, just not right away. If the flames crest a nearby ridge, she said, she would know it’s time to go. In the meantime, the town is preparing.

“I do have a little bit of a game plan,” she said. That plan involved wetting down her property and clearing fuels from near her house and other properties.

O’Brien, who also lives in Boise, said that many people have already left, but more of the year-round residents were committed to staying until it became too dangerous.

“People up here will do what they have to do to fight it, but they’re also not going to risk anybody’s lives by sticking around too long,” she said.

For Monday, most people were waiting until after the town meeting, and hoping resources will reach Atlanta before the flames do.

“We’re waiting for somebody to come to fight the fire,” she said. “They were supposed to come this morning, but we haven’t seen or heard anything.”

A part-time resident, O’Brien will head to Boise, where her daughter is, if evacuation becomes necessary.

“It’s always so nerve-wracking to leave and not know exactly what‘s happening up here,” she said.

Residents will begin digging their own fire line on private property, using heavy machinery owned by a few residents of Atlanta.

“We’re going to start utilizing the local resources because no one else is here,” O’Brien said.

Thomas reassured residents that they would not be forgotten. Before the trigger point was crossed, Incident Commander Jason Greenlee said that crews would likely only monitor the fire, unless it burned closer to the town.

Now that that has happened, Thomas said, Atlanta will not be left to fend for itself.

The U.S. Forest Service has ordered an Incident Management team, and more resources will arrive Monday.

“While the Elk and the Pony (Complexes) are starting to wind down and people are getting back into their homes, those resources are being sent to other fires,” she said. “The folks in Atlanta, although I know they're very concerned and they have every reason to be, there will be people on their way to help and get a handle on this fire.”

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

View Little Queens Fire in a larger map


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