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Much wilder fire behavior the ‘new normal’

The wildfires now burning in central Idaho have been moving far faster than last year’s massive Trinity Ridge fire, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said today. “The Elk (fire) burned 114,000, 115,000 acres in about six days,” Tidwell said. “So I cannot stress enough about the type of fire behavior that our folks are having to deal with.” He called it a “new normal.”

Otter said by comparison, last year’s Trinity Ridge fire took six weeks to burn between 125,000 and 130,000 acres. Tidwell said, “It’s just what we’re seeing everywhere. Any more, this is becoming the normal type of fire behavior for this time of year.” He added, “Folks are doing an incredible job, our firefighters, men and women.”

Part of the strategy in fighting the fires this year is to drive them back into areas that already burned, where there’s less fuel, including from last year’s Trinity Ridge fire and the 2007 Castle Rock fire near Sun Valley.  

“I really regret the loss of structures that occurred on these fires,” Tidwell said, “and I’m sorry for those folks that have had to evacuate their homes. … People need to leave so that firefighters can do their job to address the fire and not have to worry about people staying behind.”

Said Tidwell, “I’m here in Idaho because these are the highest priority fires today,” but fires also are burning in Oregon, Utah and Montana, he said. “It’s that time of year when things are tight, resources start to get tight, and that’s where the group here that works out of NIFC … makes sure that we’re putting the resources in the right place at the right time so they can be effective.” The AP/Times-News photo above, by Ashley Smith, shows the Beaver Creek fire north of Hailey.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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