When you see the blackness surrounding the Boise River Wildlife Management Area office on Idaho 21, it’s surprising that the trailer didn’t go up in smoke.
“BLM fire crews did a wonderful job, and I was lucky they were able to save my office,” said Krista Muller, wildlife biologist. “There is over 40 years of WMA history inside those walls.”
Most of the trees around the building were seriously damaged or need to be taken down for safety reasons, Muller said.
No one was killed or injured in the Mile Marker 14 Fire, which has burned more than 4,300 acres since Tuesday afternoon. The human-caused blaze started along Idaho 21 on Tuesday afternoon. Three outbuildings at a house south of Hilltop were destroyed, according to a Bureau of Land Management fire spokesman.
On Thursday, fire officials finally were able to map the blaze in detail.
At least two abandoned mines — the Adelmann and Black Hornet mines, both a couple of miles west of Hilltop Station — are within the perimeter of where the fire has burned. BLM officials don’t know whether the outbuildings associated with those mines were destroyed, said spokesman Brandon Hampton.
Access to the area is closed to the public. BLM officials will check on the structures next week, Hampton said. Lucky Peak’s Mores Arm lake area, Robie Creek boat launch and camping sites are also closed off to the public, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Muller told the Statesman that three sheds and a fuel tank cover outside the WMA office were destroyed by the fire. One was a storage shed filled with equipment, including shovels, a lawn mower and planting bars, and the other had items for the staff shooting range (targets, barrels and wire).
“Nothing we can’t replace, which was better than I thought it would be when I saw it yesterday afternoon,” Muller said late Wednesday.
The Intermountain Bird Observatory, a nonprofit academic research and community outreach program of Boise State University, stored field site supplies in the third shed. The fire destroyed hawk-trapping and owl-banding gear and a freezer, according to IBO’s Facebook page.
Muller said she was less concerned about Idaho Fish and Game’s lost equipment than the lost wildlife habitat.
“This was the last high-quality winter range on the WMA within the SH-21 corridor,” she said. “It had not burned in quite some time like many of the other parts of the WMA, so was heavily utilized by big game in the winter months. Rehabilitation will be my No. 1 priority, but it will take several years before we even see some of our efforts paying off.”
Portions of the management area, including Highland Valley Road, are on both sides of Idaho 21, and all trails in the burned area are closed to public access until further notice, Idaho Fish and Game announced Thursday afternoon.
In the next couple of weeks, Muller will work with the BLM to assess the habitat loss and determine steps for rehabilitation. A five-year plan will be developed. She’s also working on a plan for the nearly 1,000-acre Table Rock Fire that burned in late June.
“We will begin our efforts this coming fall/winter and into spring 2017,” Muller said.
Pioneer Fire grows to 1,300 acres near Idaho City
The blaze northeast of the town more than doubled in size Thursday afternoon, the Boise National Forest reported.
Hot, dry conditions and changes in wind direction increased the fire’s activity, the forest service said. The fire was 20 percent contained as of 6 p.m. and there are nearly 300 firefighters on scene, including five Hotshot crews and five helicopters, the forest service reported. Fire crews continued to hold the fire west of Elk Creek.
Smoke is visible from all directions and an area closure is in effect. No structures are in immediate danger. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.