UPDATE: Winds kick up Tuesday, growing Garden Valley fires

newsroom@idahostatesman.comJuly 14, 2014 

Firefighters made progress Tuesday on fires across the Boise National Forest, but three large fires in the Garden Valley area and the 85-acre fire east of Lowman continue to pose challenges as afternoon heat and increased winds develop.

Ten smaller fires are either getting closer to containment with preliminary firelines around the flames, or are being called fully contained. Forest Service officials said midday Tuesday that winds were picking up in Garden Valley, and they expected extreme fire behavior later in the afternoon.

A voluntary evacuation of about 60 homes along the South Fork Payette River Road due to the Wash Fire remains in place. Most people who evacuated Monday have returned to their homes. But as the afternoon heats up, officials said people should be prepared to leave again.

A Type 1 national incident management team has been called to lead firefighting efforts in the Garden Valley area, where three large fires are burning after lightning strikes Sunday, according to a Boise National Forest spokesman. The team is expected to arrive late Tuesday.

The group of fires — the Calder Fire, Wash Fire and Grimes Fire — are now being referred to as the Whiskey Complex Fire.

The Garden Valley Fire Department will collaborate with the national fire team on Whiskey Complex. They're providing structure protection along South Fork Payette River Road.

At least 18 fires in the Boise National Forest were sparked by a Sunday lightning storm.

The Wash Fire was mapped at 970 acres Tuesday. Located three miles east of Garden Valley, it continues to be a top priority due to its proximity to homes. No structures have been lost.

The Grimes Fire is at 270 acres and about five miles east of Garden Valley. It prompted a second voluntary evacuation that includes all homes in the Pioneerville area — about two miles away from the flames. This new evacuation order is in response to potential extreme fire behavior, including forecasted northwest winds that could move the fire toward the community's 10 homes. Residents are asked to check in with Boise County sheriff's dispatch at 392-4411.

The Calder Fire is 260 acres in size, about 4 miles east of Garden Valley. Fire managers are working to develop the best method of attack with a close look at its location and firefighter safety. This fire is in remote, inaccessible, steep and challenging country.

The 85 acre Blue Jay Fire about 17 miles east of Lowman is in a remote area with no structure threats. A wind advisory has been issued this afternoon for strong gusty conditions. The Banks to Lowman Road, Highway 17, is open but smoky.

The Garden Valley Rural Fire Department has a contact line for local residents at 208-462-3175 and Boise County has a hotline number for evacuation information at 208-462-0552. The Garden Valley Fire Department helped to coordinate the Wash Fire evacuation, with a center set up at the Garden Valley School staffed by the Red Cross. Residents who planned to go somewhere else were asked to check in at the school to help organizers keep track of who's missing.

Extreme heat, dry conditions and winds in the canyons combined to fan the four larger fires Monday, prompting an intensive response including smoke jumpers, helicopters and air tankers dropping retardant.

Garden Valley and Crouch communities are not threatened, and access north to the Middle Fork Payette River is clear, according to a Forest Service news release.

The Garden Valley Rural Fire Department and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Boise District are assisting Boise National Forest crews. Forest officials ask the public to take care with flammable materials — noting that any new fires will only exacerbate the situation.

This is a breaking news story. Return to this website for updates as they become available.

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