Idaho wildfires can affect your hiking, biking plans

The Mile Marker 14 Fire scorches 2,000 acres near Idaho 21 in Boise

Three structures have been destroyed and due to shifting winds, 10 structures are threatened Tuesday evening by the human-caused fire. The fire is burning on both sides of the Idaho 21 highway, which closed east and west of Lucky Peak Reservoir. A
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Three structures have been destroyed and due to shifting winds, 10 structures are threatened Tuesday evening by the human-caused fire. The fire is burning on both sides of the Idaho 21 highway, which closed east and west of Lucky Peak Reservoir. A

The Foothills trails near the Highway 55 Fire north of Eagle are shut down until fire officials give the go-ahead to reopen them, according to John Rogers, sales manager for the Avimor development.

Avimor manages the trails.

“Once they get everything squared away I assume they’ll be open,” said Rogers, who doesn’t think it will be too long.

The trails will be blacker, but the fire is not expected to permanently damage the area, he said.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management noted the closure via Twitter on Wednesday; the fire could be controlled as soon as Thursday at 8 p.m. The fire broke out late Tuesday afternoon near Idaho 55 and burned close to the Avimor community before heading northeast, away from homes.

A much larger fire has closed campgrounds, trails and backcountry yurts in the recreation-rich Boise National Forest. Now more than 15 square miles, the Pioneer Fire started July 18 about 8 miles north of Idaho City.

Leo Hennessy, nonmotorized trails coordinator for the state of Idaho, said this is the biggest fire in that area since 1989, and full restoration of the damage likely will take 10 years or longer.

“It will take out the signposts and it will change the character of the trails, which people may or may not like,” Hennessy said.

Firefighters from Eagle, Boise and BLM attack the Highway 55 Fire near the Avimor community of homes north of Eagle Tuesday July 26, 2016. The fire started along Idaho 55 late in the afternoon. Fire crews were able to create a fire line preventing

He noted that a burned area covered in snow offers better views and more open slopes for skiers, but the same area can be much less attractive in summer.

The Pioneer Fire also poses a real risk to the six backcountry yurts that Idaho Parks & Recreation manages in the Boise National Forest near Idaho City, he said.

“There’s a high degree of chance that we’re going to lose one or two,” Hennessy said.

As of Thursday, the only yurt in the path of the fire is Rocky Ridge, a couple of miles east of Idaho 21, state parks Communication Manager Jennifer Okerlund said. The wildfire had burned up to the highway and spotted over to the east side as of late Wednesday, but firefighters felt confident they could reverse the progression. Crews wrapped the yurts and installed sprinklers to protect them.

Caleb Strough captured this video on Instagram of a plane dropping retardant on the Mile Marker 14 fire. The blaze along Idaho 21 east of Boise consumed 4,306 acres and three small outbuildings in in late July.

The yurts, which each accommodate up to six people, are most popular in the winter for snowshoers and cross-country skiers, she said, but many use them in the summer and fall.

Six parties using the yurts as the fire advanced were forced to leave on Saturday and Monday, Okerlund said, and all 68 reservations for the Idaho City backcountry yurts through Aug. 31 have been canceled.

With fire managers estimating the fire won’t be fully contained until early October, it is likely many more reservations will need to be canceled, she said. No new reservations will be accepted until the state gets the all-clear from fire managers, she said.

Prolonged yurt closures will mean significantly less money available to repair any damage caused by the fire, Hennessy said, noting that the budget for such work is supplied by fees from yurt rentals as well as park-and-ski lots.

Reduced recreation opportunities north of Idaho City don’t seem to have discouraged visitors to the community, Boise County Commission Chairman Alan Ward said, also noting that the influx of firefighters to the area — currently about 900 are working on the Pioneer Fire — provides an economic shot in the arm in a dangerous time.

Fire-related closures include more than 23 miles of Idaho 21 between Idaho City and Lowman, but some determined recreation-seekers have been entering the fire closure area without benefit of roads, causing headaches for law enforcement and fire managers.

Susan Blake of Boise National Forest public affairs said Tuesday that many people have been riding ATVs and enclosed off-road vehicles into the closed areas, creating safety concerns.

“The public could really help us out by staying out of those closed areas,” Blake said.

Other recent fires that disrupted recreation opportunities include last week’s Mile Marker 14 Fire, now fully contained on both sides of Idaho 21 east of Boise, and the Table Rock Fire in the Boise Foothills. Most trails have reopened, but the Homestead Trail in East Boise remains closed as crews work to rehabilitate the burned area.

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