The fire at the Bureau of Land Management’s Challis Field Office began shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday and caused serious damage.
BLM officials say the cause at the moment remains unknown. Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are en route to Challis and will investigate along with the Idaho state fire marshal.
Staff at the Challis office manage 792,243 acres of public lands, mostly in Custer County, according to the BLM. Already ranchers who graze their cattle on those public lands are worried about the loss of valuable research data.
But BLM officials said it was too early to determine the scope of the loss of documents and computer files.
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“Among other bad effects of this fire, the loss of all the historic range photos, records, pre-war aerial photography and other documents stored there is going to make things tough for future planning and range management,” said Tom Page, a local rancher.