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Update: Air quality ‘unhealthy’ as weather fans Boise National Forest fires

By Nicole Blanchard

nblanchard@idahostatesman.com

The “pyrocumulus column” visible above the Boise Foothills Friday evening is from burnout operations for the Pioneer Fire in Boise County, the Boise National Forest reports.
The “pyrocumulus column” visible above the Boise Foothills Friday evening is from burnout operations for the Pioneer Fire in Boise County, the Boise National Forest reports. kmoeller@idahostatesman.com

The Pioneer and Rough fires, both burning in the Boise National Forest, inundated the Treasure Valley with smoke this weekend, prompting an Air Quality Index rating of “unhealthy” on Sunday as high temperatures and gusty winds increased fire activity.

A Boise National Forest press release said the Pioneer Fire, which started in mid-July north of Idaho City, grew to 71,000 acres Sunday, while containment held steady from Saturday at 40 percent. A large plume of smoke from the Pioneer Fire was still visible from the Treasure Valley through the weekend. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality had an Air Quality Index indicating the air was unhealthy for sensative groups and recommended residents “reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.” The rating had increased from “moderate” on Saturday.

This weekend, the 1,800 personnel fighting the Pioneer Fire focused on using aircraft to slow the fire’s growth to the north, where it reached the Deadwood River drainage Sunday. Hand crews in the area will also try to engage the fire’s northern edge, according to the release. In addition, crews are preparing for a burn operation on the fire’s western flank, weather permitting. Earlier in the week, authorities predicted the fire would be fully contained at the end of September.

The Rough Fire, which has burned a total of 1,994 acres, grew to 15 percent containment, according to the release. Crews were still directing the lightning-sparked fire northeast toward the 2006 Red Mountain Fire scar. Over 200 personnel are currently working on the Rough Fire, which is about 14 miles northeast of Lowman.

A community meeting was schedule for Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Lowman Emergency Services Building near milemarker 80, about 7 miles east of Lowman.

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