Firefighters are setting up sprinkler systems to protect buildings in Lowman as a massive wildfire continued to expand Wednesday, reaching 75 square miles.
Officials said slightly cooler weather and winds from the northwest should help firefighters trying to prevent flames from reaching the small town in the Boise National Forest.
“There’s a structure protection group that is going around to all the homes in Lowman, assessing them and clearing around the homes,” said Pioneer Fire spokeswoman Jennifer Myslivy.
She said there are no evacuation notices. A community meeting with fire officials was held Wednesday evening, one of a series of such meetings that have been held in Idaho City and Lowman as the fire has spread.
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The Pioneer Fire, burning north of Idaho City, started July 18 and had grown to 48,350 acres by Wednesday morning. Idaho 21 is closed from about 6 miles north of Idaho City to about 2 miles south of Lowman.
Nearly 1,500 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is burning timber in rugged Boise County terrain.
The containment increased to 36 percent on Wednesday, but the estimated date for full containment has been pushed back to Sept. 15.
Crews have repeatedly had to abandon fire lines as the blaze moved north, but Myslivy said crews are trying to build another line using a prescribed burn from the spring near Lowman.
She said firefighters called in to put in fire lines include Hotshot crews, which are among the most elite firefighters.
“It’s hot and dry, the winds are just kind of pushing it,” Myslivy said. “With that fuel it’s hard for the firefighters to get the upper hand. It’s just making hard pushes through that fuel.”
The fire has destroyed one state-operated backcountry yurt, Whispering Pines. The $60,000 yurt was a round structure with a dome roof.
There were six yurts in the system that the state operates in the Boise National Forest under an agreement with the Forest Service; they are generally booked months in advance for winter use by backcountry skiers. They are popular in summer, too, and renters were evacuated and reservations canceled after the Pioneer Fire grew.
At least two other yurts have survived, but firefighters have not made it to the other three to check on their condition, fire managers said Wednesday via InciWeb.
Statesman staff contributed.
Other Western wildfires
California: Authorities are considering potential penalties for whoever set an illegal campfire that ballooned into a massive wildfire near scenic Big Sur.
Officials want the public’s help in finding whoever started the fire, which has blackened more than 71 square miles and destroyed 57 homes.
To the north, a grass fire in a popular recreational area north of San Francisco has more than doubled in size in less than a day. The blaze has charred more than 6 square miles in Napa, Yolo and Solano counties since igniting Tuesday. No vineyards are threatened.
Montana: A fire grew overnight to 11 square miles in the Bitterroot National Forest. It has destroyed 14 homes southwest of Hamilton, along with dozens of outbuildings and some vehicles. About 630 homes remain evacuated.
Nevada: Officials are reporting progress containing two large wildfires in remote rangeland and rugged canyons in the northwestern part of the state. A fire that has charred more than 84 square miles in the Virginia Mountains near Pyramid Lake was about 41 percent contained. A fire farther north near Poodle Mountain was 80 percent contained.
Oregon: A wildfire burning southwest of Crater Lake spread to more than 700 acres, prompting an evacuation warning for some parts of Crater Lake National Park, though it remained open.
Washington: Residents have been allowed to return to their homes after a 7-square-mile fire prompted evacuations in central Washington. A fire spokesman, Trooper Jeff Sevigney, says the blaze about 7 miles north of Moses Lake destroyed one home.
Wyoming: The only area still evacuated is Granite Creek in Teton County, where a wildfire was burning in Bridger-Teton National Forest. The fire has burned 46 square miles and is 84 percent contained.