Treasure Valley air quality for Thursday has improved to “orange,” considered unhealthy for sensitive groups on the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s scale, the agency said midday.
That’s a step up from the “red” air quality the valley has suffered since Monday, when mountain winds started blowing smoke from the 4,385-acre Walker Fire downhill into the area at night.
Impacts have been most significant in the eastern valley and Boise area, with less smoky haze in Caldwell and other western areas of the valley. DEQ noted that hour-by-hour, the area could still see air quality anywhere from “green” (good) to “red,” and that smoke from the fire could still worsen again at any time.
The National Weather Service expects the weather pattern to hold through the end of the week, with a slight chance of rain over the weekend. That rain could help disperse the smoke; click here for more about that forecast.
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Residents were able to return to their homes in Macks Creek, Pine Creek, and Wolf Creek Wednesday night after being evacuated Sunday due to the fire burning near Idaho City, according to fire officials.
The human-caused fire has been 50 percent contained and crews have pushed it away from residential areas, officials report.
The Idaho Department of Lands is managing the blaze and almost 400 personnel are fighting the fire, according to officials.
Listen to a St. Luke’s pulmonologist’s advice for dealing with wildfire smoke:
Also on Wednesday, the Idaho Department of Lands announced it would extend “closed fire season” until further notice, requiring anyone outside city limits anywhere in Idaho to obtain a fire safety burn permit before burning anything, including crop residue. An exception is granted for recreational campfires. Fire safety burn permits can be obtained online or in person at IDL offices statewide.
“Even though it’s the middle of October, conditions are expected to be warm and dry enough across Idaho to ignite a wildfire that can easily escape initial attack,” State Forester David Groeschl said. “Requiring fire safety burn permits past October 20 for certain controlled burn activities enables fire managers to set parameters for the types of burning allowed in certain areas that are still at risk for wildfire.”
By October, there also are fewer firefighters, equipment, and aircraft available to respond to a controlled burn if it escapes.
The fire safety burn permit system informs fire managers where burning activities are occurring, reducing the number of false runs to fires and saving firefighting resources for instances in which they are truly needed. It also enables fire managers to respond more quickly to fires that escape, potentially reducing the liability of the burner if their fire escapes.
The fire safety burn permit is free of charge and good for 10 days after it is issued. Permits issued through the self service web site are available seven days a week, issued immediately, and valid immediately.