Fires

As Pioneer Fire spreads, focus still on protecting Lowman

The Pioneer Fire is providing dramatic images for photographers, such as this one taken near Idaho City July 30 by Boise native and Elko-based hot shot firefighter Amos Richardson.
The Pioneer Fire is providing dramatic images for photographers, such as this one taken near Idaho City July 30 by Boise native and Elko-based hot shot firefighter Amos Richardson.

The Pioneer Fire grew about 2,000 acres Thursday and pushed a half-mile closer to Lowman, but crews remained confident they could keep the town safe, according to Boise National Forest spokesman Joshua Thompson.

The 50,478-acre fire was estimated as being 29 percent contained Thursday, down from 36 percent Wednesday.

A low-pressure system is expected to arrive Friday, bringing the chance of both thunderstorms and lightning for the weekend, which causes concern for fire managers.

The fire is about 2 miles south of Lowman, and firefighters started two simultaneous burnouts Thursday to stop it from coming down a creek drainage that funnels into the community.

Winds switched and were coming out of the northwest, prompting fire managers to make the call for the double-burnout operation.

“We’re hopefully going to control the fire with our fire to get it all burned together,” said fire spokeswoman Jennifer Myslivy. “It could be a two- or three-day operation.”

Crews will try to connect containment lines on both sides of a 200-acre prescribed burn near Rock Creek that was done in April.

“Hopefully, fire behavior will moderate when it gets to that area,” said Stephaney Kerley, spokeswoman for the Boise National Forest.

No evacuations have been ordered, but the Boise County sheriff has told residents to be alert.

“Nobody can predict it, but they have crews pulling on the east and west side,” Thompson said. “They’re optimistic (and) they’re going to work through the night if need be.”

Firefighters set up sprinkler systems on the Willow Creek cabins in case flames arrive, and firefighters expected Lowman to be fully prepped by midday Thursday, Thompson said.

Fire officials didn’t have updates on the six state-managed yurts in the fire area Thursday since crews are focusing on the Lowman side of the fire. The Whispering Pines yurt has been destroyed, two yurts have been spared and the fate of the other three is unknown.

Nearly 1,500 people are fighting the fire using 10 helicopters, 51 engines, eight bulldozers, 18 water tenders and six tree-chippers.

Officials urge residents to not use drones near fire zones. Federal policy leads to the shutdown of aerial fire operations for safety reasons if a drone is spotted nearby.

Idaho 21 remains closed from about 6 miles north of Idaho City to about 2 miles south of Lowman. The Idaho Transportation Department will have flaggers out Sunday at the intersection of Idaho 55 and the Banks-Lowman Road, starting at noon and continuing through the afternoon, to help with expected increased traffic at that intersection.

Officials have said they will try to keep the Banks-Lowman Road open even if it requires using lead vehicles to guide motorists.

[Watch a satellite view of smoke spreading from the Pioneer Fire]

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