The Boise National Forest’s fire chief says three fires that started overnight near Lucky Peak Reservoir are “highly suspicious,” and Gov. Brad Little went up in an Idaho National Guard Black Hawk helicopter Thursday to survey the burned area.
At a short press conference at Gowen Field after the flight, Little said that he was musing yesterday about how it was almost Aug. 1 — and no fire smoke had impacted Boise.
“I got up this morning, like everybody else did, and lo and behold, we had smoke in the Valley,” he said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate this year, other than the big fire we had down at the lab, out at the INL. We’ve had a pretty quiet fire season.
“It’s a good message to everybody about how careful we need to be,” Little added, noting that “it’s good to just remind people that we’re in the middle of fire season.”
The largest of the three fires, now a little more than 100 acres, started around 1 a.m., according to the Boise Interdisciplinary Dispatch Center. It’s burning above Spring Shores Road/Arrowrock Road, near Idaho 21.
Arrowrock Road was closed from the highway to milepost 2 much of the afternoon but one lane was re-opened (with a pilot car), a Forest Service official said. Idaho Power is working on burned power poles and lines in the area.
Initial estimates of the fire’s size pegged it at 150 acres, but that was revised down to 104 just before noon.
Two other small fires were burning at Lucky Peak overnight — one near Hilltop Station and the other near the Spring Shores Marina — but they were quickly contained and resources were diverted to the larger fire, named the Lucky Fire.
The cause of the fires, which Boise National Forest Fire Chief Bob Shindelar called “highly suspicious,” is under investigation. There weren’t any thunderstorms with lightning strikes north of Boise overnight that could have started the Lucky Peak fires, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Groenert.
“There were clear skies,” Groenert said. “There haven’t been any lightning strikes in the Boise area for a couple of days.”
The Lucky Fire has destroyed prime winter range for deer and elk, but no structures are threatened by the fire.
There also is no containment or control of the fire yet, but crews have established a hand line on half of the fire and a dozer line on the other half, Boise National Forest spokeswoman Venetia Gempler said. She said helicopters have been deployed to help with the firefighting effort.
“All forward fire progression has stopped or slowed down, so they’re feeling pretty good about this fire,” Gempler told the Statesman on Thursday.
There are three, 20-person hand crews, five engines, two water tenders and a bulldozer working the fire, Shindelar said at the Gowen Field press conference. They’re working in tough terrain and temperatures are expected to reach triple digits, he said.
Shindelar asked the public to be “extra cautious” as we enter August, when conditions are hot and vegetation is dry.
“Any fires that do start are going to be difficult to control because of the dryness, he said.
The area that’s burning is public land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Carried by winds out of the northeast, smoke from the fires drained into the Treasure Valley. As the winds shifted through the day, the smoke drifted away.
“We’ll have winds out of the west in the late afternoon, around 3 p.m.,” Groenert said. “It will mix out as we warm up.”
The two smaller fires that were contained were the 20-acre MM13 Fire at Highland Valley Road/Idaho 21 and the Shores Fire near Spring Shores Marina, which was only one-tenth of an acre, according to Linda Steinhaus, a spokeswoman for the Boise National Forest.
Firefighters were called to the MM13 Fire at about 11:40 p.m. Wednesday night, more than an hour before the other fires were reported.
This is a breaking news story that the Idaho Statesman will update.