An Idaho man admitted to authorities Wednesday that he started the Sharps Fire, which has burned nearly 57,253 acres, with an exploding target.
According to the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page, 35-year-old Ryan M. Jensen, of Bellevue, Idaho, admitted to starting the fire. He had initially reported the fire and said he attempted to put it out, telling authorities he had not been shooting in the area.
The Bureau of Land Management was forced to close about 128,000 acres of public land in Blaine County on Thursday as a result of the fire. Outside Bellevue, Idaho, the Sharps Fire was only 29 percent contained on Friday morning.
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Jensen voluntarily came into the sheriff’s office and confessed to starting the fire by using an exploding target, according to the Blaine County Sheriff. On Thursday afternoon, Jensen was charged on suspicion of firing timber or prairie land, a misdemeanor crime.
Prior to confessing to police, Jensen reported he was driving out Muldoon Canyon when he came upon the fire. He told detectives that he initially attempted to put the fire out, but then drove back into town to report the blaze to authorities, according to the sheriff’s office.
Jensen repeatedly denied shooting weapons or using any exploding targets. But after multiple interviews with witnesses the investigation began to focus on Jensen as the primary suspect and he turned himself in.
“We ask the public to be patient and respectful of the judicial process,” said Sheriff Steve Harkins through his Facebook post..
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality continues to issue smoke warnings, saying the hot weather will only worsen the problem this week. In addition, fires in Oregon and California will bring smoke into Idaho due to expected southwest winds.
“There will be widespread haze throughout the day today, particularly over eastern Idaho and the Panhandle with high impacts in and around the border of Idaho and British Columbia, Canada,” the DEQ reported Wednesday. “This evening, expect smoke to drain into the Treasure Valley, Middle Snake River Plain, and within the Purcell Trench across the Panhandle.”
Authorities continue to warn residents that there are temporary flight restrictions over the wildfires, meaning it is illegal to fly personally-owned drones over the blaze. The drones interfere with firefighting aircraft and jeopardize the safety of nearby personnel.
Updates continue to be made about all wildfires in Idaho at inciweb.nwcg.gov.
To monitor smoke warnings, residents may visit the DEQ’s blog, at idsmoke.blogspot.com.
The Sharps Fire, which began on July 29, is threatening structures and is reportedly burning six miles east of Bellevue on Sharps Canyon Road.
Mandatory evacuations were still in place for the Little Wood Recreation Area campground and all homes on Little Wood Reservoir Road and Flat Top Road, north of the reservoir.
The Sawtooth National Forest implemented an area closure for the Sharps Fire Wednesday. This includes all roads, trails, and fire area until Sept. 30, or rescinded by the Sawtooth National Forest supervisor.
A pre-evacuation notice was put in place for Fish Creek Road. The BLM reports that a “pre-evacuation” notice means residents should prepare to leave at a moment’s notice.
Quigley Road was closed and Muldoon Canyon Road was closed from the EE-DA-HO Ranch entrance to Hunt Road. High Five, Baugh Creek, Bay Horse and Hunt roads are all also closed. Both the Little Wood River Reservoir and the High Five Creek Recreation area have been evacuated and are closed to the public.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office closed Slaughterhouse Creek Road, where the pavement ends, to restrict access into the fire area where crews are working. The Forest Service also closed Cove Creek Road 1.5 miles from East Fork Road.
There is no estimated date of containment.
The Rattlesnake Creek Fire, west of U.S. Highway 95 in Idaho County, has grown to 3,851 acres and is 32 percent contained as of Wednesday. It’s located near Pollock in the Nez Perce-Clearwater and Payette National Forests, according to the BLM.
Private property and structures in Pollock, Pinehurst and Whitewater Wilderness Ranch Estates are threatened, as well as the highway’s structure.
There are more than 473firefighters on scene. There is no anticipated containment date.