Containment grows in Pioneer Fire, Highway 21 now open from Stanley to Lowman

Statesman Staff

Pioneer Fire knocking on Lowman's door

Firefighters used backburns to help keep the Pioneer Fire from encroaching on Lowman, Idaho on Thursday.
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Firefighters used backburns to help keep the Pioneer Fire from encroaching on Lowman, Idaho on Thursday.

The Pioneer Fire has grown to 60,882 acres on Sunday, with containment rising to 26 percent, officials said.

In an update today, officials said Highway 21 is now open from Stanley to Lowman, but motorists can expect delays and the possibility of pilot-cars being used to guide traffic should fire activity increase in the area. Highway 21 remains closed from Lowman to Idaho City, as crews removed hazard trees threatening the road, according to a U.S. Forest release.

A thunder cell produced gusting winds that pushed the fire north across containment lines by mid-afternoon Saturday, producing spot fires, a U.S. Forest Service release said. The fire burned along planned containment lines toward Lowman, and no structures were lost, according to the release.

But a fire near Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth National Forest might complicate the non-mandatory level 2 evacuation notice still standing for Lowman residents, which encourages them to be prepared to evacuate. According to Jerry Rohnert, a fire information officer with the Boise National Forest, Idaho 21 has been closed off from Stanley as crews work on the blaze there. The size of that fire, called the Dry Creek Fire, has not yet been confirmed.

“It’s getting a little dicey,” said Rohnert. “There’s no way into or out of Lowman now.”

Idaho 21, where the fire has been burning for more than two weeks, was also closed where it intersects with Idaho 17, according to a Boise National Forest tweet. Rohnert said it will be up to the Boise County Sheriff’s Office to decide how to evacuate residents.

According to the Forest Service release, crews are working to build containment lines to the north and west of the Pioneer Fire but are expecting additional thunderstorms Saturday and Sunday that could increase fire activity. Crews are also working on the tree removal along the southwest flank of the fire in an effort to reopen Idaho 21, the release said.

Red Cross officials said in an email that an evacuee shelter planned in Idaho City was closed Saturday afternoon “as … services are not needed there at this time.”

Regional Communications Director Anna Fernandez-Gevaert said shelter resources will still be available for the next 24 hours, and local volunteers will be on standby in the event that the shelter becomes necessary.

Due to the extreme fire behavior, Boise National Forest officials expanded closure areas to include Scott Mountain Lookout Road and rafting on the South Fork Payette River from Eight Mile Creek to Danskin Creek. In addition, Hayfork, Black Rock, Edna Creek, Willow Creek, Graham Bridge, Whoop Um Up, Deadwood, Mountain View, Pine Flats and Park Creek campgrounds are closed, said a BNF release.