More than 20 Idaho Air National Guard airmen joined wildfire fighting efforts Friday in support of crews battling the 15,000 acre Grizzly Complex Fires in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
“These additional resources will help alleviate some of the critical staffing shortages that the forest is facing,” said Chad Hudson, Coeur d’Alene District Ranger.
The airmen, who departed from Gowen Field Friday morning, will assist fire managers with communicating emergency wildfire closure information to the local population.
This activation is in addition to Idaho Army National Guard personnel and equipment conducting helicopter operations at the Clearwater Complex Fire in north central Idaho and Idaho Air National Guard personnel assisting with the Tower Fire burning near the Washington - Idaho border.
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The Idaho Emergency Operations Center is activated and continues to monitor the situation, process requests for assistance, and issue mission assignments to support the ongoing fire suppression efforts. The activation and the missions are made possible through Gov. Butch Otter's disaster declaration issued Aug. 13.
CLOSURES AND DIVERSIONS NEAR RIGGINS
The Tepee Springs Fire grew from nearly 26,000 acres Thursday to more than 40,000 Friday, with some flames jumping north across the Salmon River, fire managers posted on InciWeb.
Residents near Riggins have been told to evacuate amid two days of aggressive growth, and the fire also prompted the emergency closure Thursday of nearly 18 miles of the Lower Salmon River to all recreational use. The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office initially diverted rafters at French Creek and sent them onto Forest Road 246, leading to McCall. But by Friday morning, that road also was closed, and rafters were being intercepted at Vinegar Creek, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced.
As of Friday morning, the arrangement included a pilot car leading vehicles from Riggins into and out of the area. Food and water were being set up at Vinegar Creek in case fire activity interfered with access.
“Limiting access and recreational opportunities for the public is a difficult decision for the BLM and one that is not made lightly,” said Will Runnoe, manager of BLM’s Cottonwood Field Office, in a written statement. “In this situation, the extreme fire behavior being displayed by the Tepee Springs Fire poses an exceptional threat to the public so we have got to take these precautions. As soon as the threat of the fire lifts, the temporary emergency closure will be rescinded.”
The fire stood at 40,665 acres and was 30 percent contained as of early Friday, according to the BLM’s report on InciWeb. Fire managers say the fire made runs through the tops of trees and had long-range spotting with embers shooting out ahead.
Nearly 600 firefighters are working to protect structures, put in fire lines and use burnouts along U.S. Highway 95 and the Salmon River.
U.S. 95 remains open, but officials said motorists should be alert for fire equipment moving on the highway.
OTHER IDAHO FIRES
In North Idaho, a group of blazes that earlier destroyed 42 homes near Kamiah is now 65 percent contained and remains at 74 square miles.
“The fires are not growing,” fire spokesman Todd Schroeder said of the Clearwater Complex. “Right now it’s a mop-up game.”
The Rapid Fire has burned 5,869 acres in subalpine and mixed conifer forest about 12 miles southeast of McCall as of Friday. It is 37 percent contained. The fire grew about 1,000 acres due to winds and heavy fuel Thursday. Crews worked to strengthen containment lines around the southern part of the fire Friday.
The 1,237-acre Cougar Fire, about 20 miles northeast of Cascade in Valley County,was about 90 percent contained as of Friday. Fire crews continue to be released over time, though fire managers remain watchful for high winds that could scatter embers outside the containment lines.
The Campbells Fire ws reported at 6,720 acres Friday in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness southeast of Dixie. It is burning through timber in Fall, Ruf, Moore and Trout creeks, and now includes Burnt Knob. Crews are doing structure protection at Campbells Ferry..
The 28,491-acre Wash Fire continues to burn about 7 miles northeast of Elk City in Central Idaho. On Thursday, officials advised residents of the Elk City area to be ready to evacuate. The fire still threatens grazing allotments and is likely to keep burning until a significant, season-ending weather event of the type unlikely to occur until October.
Officials starting this week are capturing 285 wild horses in Southwest Idaho following the 443-square-mile Soda Fire. Authorities say the area, mainly in Owyhee County, no longer contains enough food for the horses.
Officials said that after being captured the horses will be held at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Boise Wild Horse Corrals until the range recovers, and then released.
BLM Director Neil Kornze toured the area of the fire Wednesday and spoke about its recovery. You can click here to read his comments.
The Treasure Valley's air quality, unhealthy early in the week, is expected to hold steady at yellow (moderate) for through Monday, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality reports.
But much of the rest of the state is still impaired by smoke from fires across the region. Air quality in Moscow, Lewiston and Grangeville was listed as red (unhealthy) for Friday and Saturday.