About 40 Idaho Air National Guard members are headed to help with the Tower Fire north of Spokane, Wash., the Guard and the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security announced Wednesday.
Burning just across the Idaho border from Priest Lake, the fire is the biggest part of a 13,854-acre complex burning on national forest land. It was started Aug. 11 by lightning and is currently overseen by an incident management team from Alaska.
The Idaho Guardsmen will focus on traffic control on roads near Priest Lake leading to the fire area, a press release states.
A separate group of Guardsmen is supporting helicopter operations at the Clearwater Complex. Other states that have turned to their National Guard for firefighting help include Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown has sent a number of Guard members to the front lines of various blazes, according to the Associated Press.
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The Treasure Valley's air quality, still impaired by smoke from fires across the state and neighboring states, is improving, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality reported.
Treasure Valley air was upgraded from red (unhealthy for all) to orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) Wednesday, and the forecast for Thursday is for a yellow alert (moderate).
Farther north, air quality took another steep dive Wednesday, with DEQ giving Moscow its worst rating: hazardous. That maroon air quality alert is expected to repeat Thursday.
In response, the University of Idaho canceled all outdoor activities — including athletic practices and intramural sports — and announced it would cancel events or move them elsewhere any time DEQ rates the city’s air quality as unhealthy, very unhealthy or hazardous. The city of Moscow announced it was closing the city swimming pool Wednesday and limiting outdoor operations due to the excessive smoke in the area.
AROUND THE STATE
More than 600 firefighters are taking the upper hand on the most destructive of Idaho's fires, the Clearwater Complex. The lightning-sparked blazes, burning in timber a couple miles from the northern Idaho town of Kamiah, previously destroyed 42 homes but by Wednesday evening was about 60 percent contained. So far, about 47,260 acres have burned. The fires are being managed as three large complexes — Clearwater, Municipal near Craigmont and Orofino, and Motorway near Syringa and the Lolo Motorway. A Multi-Agency Resource Center for people affected by the fires opened Tuesday at 618 Main St. in Kamiah.
Wind gusts this week have fanned the flames of the Tepee Springs Fire south of Riggins. As of Wednesday morning, the Tepee Springs Fire had burned more than 18,689 acres and was about 30 percent contained. The fire is spreading into the main Hazard Creek drainage, the headwaters of Bascom Canyon and the headwaters of Little Elk Creek, fire officials say. They aim to confine and contain the fire east of the U.S. Highway 95 corridor.
Evacuations are now in effect from Lake Creek Point North to the Salmon River, east to French Creek Road, the BLM announced Wednesday afternoon. An evacuation center has been set up at the Riggins Community Center. BLM lands east of 95 between Riggins and the Smokey Boulder Road north of New Meadows have been closed to all traffic, as have lands from east of Riggins to the Payette National Forest boundary.
Sparked by lightning on Aug. 10, the Rapid Fire has burned 4,431 acres in subalpine and mixed conifer forest about 12 miles southeast of McCall. Fire crews made progress Wednesday, and by evening the fire was about 37 percent contained, officials said. A public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Donnelly Fire Department, 244 W. Roseberry Road.
Crews also have made good progress on the Boise National Forest’s Cougar Fire, burning a fire line around the perimeter of the 1,237 acre blaze about 20 miles northeast of Cascade in Valley County. The fire is now about 81 percent contained, and crews are being released to fight other fires, officials said.
The Campbells Fire, which was caused by lightning on Aug. 13, is now reported at about 5,000 acres in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness southeast of Dixie. It is burning through timber in Fall, Ruf, Moore and Trout creeks. Crews are doing structure protection at Campbells Ferry and assessing structures at risk along the Main Salmon River.
The Middle Fork Complex burning in the Church River of No Return Wilderness near Salmon led the Salmon-Challis National Forest to close six trails. The fires have burned about 5,100 acres.
NEED TO FILE A WILDFIRE-RELATED INSURANCE CLAIM?
The Idaho Department of Insurance has set up a Web page with advice for residents with property damaged by this summer’s fires. The page includes fact sheets about filing an insurance claim and rebuilding, contact information for insurers, consumer tips and links to fire updates.
Residents can also call one of the department’s consumer affairs officers at 208-334-4250 or 800-721-3272.
“Our hearts go out to the families who have lost so much,” Director Dean Cameron said in a press release about the page. “We stand ready to assist in any way we can as they move forward to recover from the devastation.”
WHAT RESTRICTIONS ARE IN PLACE ON PUBLIC LAND?
State and federal agencies have launched a new hotline to help you find out. Call 844-433-4737 for information on fire restrictions across Idaho. The DEQ has issued a Stage 1 air quality advisory for the entire state of Idaho, prohibiting all forms of burning.
Details on fire restrictions are also available through an interactive map at this website.