UPDATE: Area of closure set up around three large fires in Boise County

Evacuations remain voluntary in two parts of Boise County

STATESMAN STAFFJuly 16, 2014 

  • OTHER IDAHO FIRES

    Payette National Forest

    Lightning started a string of 11 blazes Sunday evening. Fire managers said Tuesday that eight of them should be controlled by Wednesday.

    The other three are:

    • Logan Fire, which has burned 20 acres in fir and mixed conifers 4 miles west of the Forest Service's Big Creek work station. Containment is expected by Aug. 4.

    • Weasel Springs Fire, which has burned 34 acres in mixed conifer stands 15 miles northwest of Council. Fire managers have no expected containment date.

    • Rush Fire, which has burned 70 acres in mixed conifers 12 miles west of Council. Containment is expected by Aug. 4.

    Preacher Fire

    The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is heading efforts to fight this fire, burning through grass and brush 10 miles northeast of Richfield. The fire covered 7,000 acres, according to a Tuesday morning report, and was projected to grow. Still, containment is projected for Thursday.

    Pittsburgh Fire

    Covering 1,000 acres, this fire is burning on rangeland in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. No structures are threatened.

    Other fires around the West

    • Washington's biggest wildfire is holding steady at about 35 square miles and is about 34 percent contained. The Mills Canyon Fire near the town of Entiat has not grown despite winds, thunderstorms and triple-digit temperatures.

    • Highway 26 east of Prineville, Ore., remains closed at Ochoco Pass because of a lightning-ignited wildfire.

An area of closure has been established around three large fires in Boise County — now known as the Whiskey Complex Fire — with points extending to near Placerville, Centerville and Pioneerville, according to information released Wednesday morning by the Boise National Forest.

The Hot Springs Campground is closed.

Last night, firefighters were able to reduce the threat of the 970-acre Wash Fire to homes in Garden Valley, but a Level 2 Voluntary evacuation remains in effect. That fire is burning about 3 miles east of Garden Valley.

Firefighters are building a fireline focusing on the western flank of the 270-acre Grimes Fire. The fire is burning 5 miles east of Garden Valley. A Boise County voluntary evacuation for the 10 homes in the Pioneerville area continues.

The 85-acre Blue Jay Fire, about 17 miles east of Lowman, was active late Tuesday. It's in a remote area that isn't threatening any structures. Smokejumpers and hot shots are working the fire.

The Type 1 national incident management team took over command of the Whiskey Complex Fire at 6 a.m. Wednesday. The team is familiar with the Boise National Forest, having worked the Elk Complex Fire last year and Trinity Ridge Fire in 2012.

Firefighting efforts Tuesday were challenged by climbing temperatures and increasing winds.

Ten smaller fires were either closer to containment, with preliminary firelines around the flames, or were being labeled fully contained. Forest Service officials said around 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 South Fork Payette River Road remained in place. Most people who cleared out Monday returned to their homes, but they were warned to be prepared to leave again.

Another voluntary evacuation, newly issued Tuesday, involved 10 homes in the Pioneerville area. Residents were asked to check in with the Boise County sheriff's dispatch at 392-4411.

Some residents near the most aggressive fires say they don't plan to evacuate. Lindy Lindstrom helped firefighters however he could around a family home Tuesday, and Shirley Lindstrom said she plans to stay put.

"I am more worried about the forest than our house," she said.

A Type 1 national incident management team arrived late Tuesday to lead firefighting efforts in the Garden Valley area. The team is expected to assume command Wednesday over the Whiskey Complex, a group that includes the Calder, Wash and Grimes fires. The latter two prompted the evacuation notices.

BIG COMPLEX

The Garden Valley Fire Department will collaborate with the national fire team on the Whiskey Complex. It's 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 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. It's about 5 miles east of Garden Valley and just a couple of miles from the Pioneerville homes. The evacuation order cited concerns over northwest winds that could move the flames toward houses.

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

• The 85-acre Blue Jay Fire, about 17 miles east of Lowman, is in a remote area with no structure threats. The Banks to Lowman Highway, Idaho 17, was open but smoky Tuesday.

The Garden Valley Fire Protection District has a contact line for local residents (462-3175), and Boise County has a hotline for evacuation information (462-0552).

The Garden Valley Fire Department helped to coordinate the Wash Fire evacuation, with a center set up at a Garden Valley school that was staffed by the Red Cross. Residents who planned to go elsewhere were asked to check in at the school to help organizers keep track of who might be missing.

Extreme heat, dry conditions and winds in the canyons combined to fan the larger fires Monday, prompting an intensive response that included helicopters and air tankers.

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

The Garden Valley Fire Protection District 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 new fires will exacerbate the situation.

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