More fires were still burning Saturday in Idaho than in any other state, keeping Treasure Valley skies polluted even as the nearby Soda Fire was mostly done and moving into rehab mode.
Idaho had 17 large fires — the most in the nation, the Associated Press reported. Crews have started rehabilitating the site of the Soda Fire, which burned 444 square miles in Owyhee County about 40 miles southwest of Boise. The fire, the largest fire in the lower 48 states, is nearly 100 percent contained, but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants people to stay out of the area. The BLM said target shooters threaten firefighters and crews.
Poor air quality: Ada and Canyon counties saw a relief in the air quality when the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality dropped the level from Orange to Yellow. Though smoke is still impacting the Treasure Valley, it is no longer harmful to breathe outside. Since the air quality is still smoky, DEQ recommends residents limit their driving and take note of the burn ban that is still in effect.
Ban on burning: All outdoor burning was still banned in Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington counties. The state Department of Environmental Quality banned campfires statewide through the weekend because of air quality. The DEQ will re-evaluate that ban Monday.
North Idaho evacuations: Evacuation orders were in effect in portions of northern Idaho. The Clearwater Complex of wildfires has already destroyed 42 homes near Kamiah. Fire managers told residents near the town of Weippe to flee the fires that have scorched 63 square miles of mostly timber. The Red Cross reopened an evacuation shelter at an elementary school in Kooskia and kept a shelter it had opened at a school in Weippe on standby .
Boise National Forest fire: The Cougar Fire about 20 miles northeast of Cascade in Valley County was about half contained as firefighters used dozers and hand fire-line construction with helicopter support. Warm Lake Highway 22 was still open, though an area closure west of Warm Lake remained in effect.
Payette National Forest fire: Part of the forest remained closed because of the Tepee Springs Fire south of Riggins.
Salmon-area fires: The Middle Fork complex of five lightning-caused fires led the Salmon-Challis National Forest to close five trails.
Donations: The American Red Cross seeks donations to its disaster-relief program to help people affected by wildfires. Visit www.redcross.org/idaho, call (800)-853-2570 or mail contributions to American Red Cross, 5371 W. Franklin Road, Boise, ID 83705.
The Associated Press contributed.