Idaho wildfires: Boise air quality improves, Beaver Creek rehab under way

Statesman staff and wire reportsAugust 28, 2013 

An aerial image of the Beaver Creek Fire in the Wood River Valley

MEL MEIER

AIR QUALITY

Visibility at the Boise Airport was 10 miles or above for the entire day on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. The last day that happened was Aug. 21. Aug. 22 would lay claim to that distinction if a thunderstorm had not reduced visibility for a bit.

More good news for your lungs: The state Department of Environmental Quality placed Thursday's air quality forecast in the green, or good, category. That's an upgrade from the yellow, or moderate, alert that has stuck around for a while.

BEAVER CREEK FIRE

The lightning-caused Beaver Creek Fire near Hailey and Ketchum was burning 111,488 acres, was 94 percent contained and fire managers stuck to their prediction that it would be contained by Saturday.

Rehabilitation was already under way, officials reported, as crews were repairing 61 miles of bulldozer line and many additional miles of fire line built by hand.

Crews continued to work a few remaining trouble spots in remote and hard to reach areas.

“We are feeling very confident about it” Incident Commander Marty Adell said Tuesday night at a community meeting in Ketchum. Another community meeting was held Wednesday night in Hailey.

LITTLE QUEENS FIRE

The Elmore County Sheriff's Office escorted Atlanta residents displaced by the Little Queens Fire back to their homes.

The fire was burning a little more than 23,200 acres and was 20 percent contained, with containment predicted to happen Oct. 30.

The cause was still being investigated.

KELLEY FIRE

The size of the lightning-caused Kelley Fire about 7 miles southeast of Featherville was downgraded from 400 acres on Tuesday to 300 acres on Wednesday.

There were 150 personnel assigned to fight the lightning-caused blaze. It was 5 percent contained, with containment expected on Sept. 7.

This closure was in effect: the South Fork of the Boise River Road #227 from the Sawtooth National Forest boundary near Featherville, east to Skeleton Creek, then south to the Lime Creek Trail. The closure includes Baumgartner Campground.

ELK COMPLEX

The lightning-caused Elk Complex 10 miles southwest of Pine was still a little more than 131,000 acres and 95 percent contained. Fire managers still expected containment on Saturday.

RIM FIRE

Firefighters battling the giant wildfire burning in the Sierra Nevada added a California National Guard Predator drone to their arsenal Wednesday to give them almost immediate views of any portion of the flames chewing through rugged forests in and around Yosemite National Park.

The MQ-1 unmanned aircraft being remotely piloted hundreds of miles away quickly alerted fire bosses to a new flare-up they otherwise wouldn’t have immediately seen.

“They’re piping what they’re seeing directly to the incident commander, and he’s seeing it in real time over a computer network,” said National Guard Lt. Col. Tom Keegan.

Previously ground commanders relied on helicopters that needed to refuel every two hours.

The 12-day-old Rim Fire continued to grow, expanding to 292 square miles, and containment remained at 23 percent. But increasingly confident fire officials said they expect to fully surround it in three weeks, although it will burn for much longer than that.

“It’s looking better every day,” said incident spokesman Glen Stratton.

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