BOISE – Hot temperatures combined with hot winds Sunday to fan three wildfires burning in dry timber stands in the central Idaho mountains, but fire crews reported progress on the stubborn Elkhorn fire.
Fire managers worried that the Quartz Creek fire could threaten federally protected chinook salmon, while the nettlesome Elkhorn fire shifted course, sparing a nearby cluster of homes.
The Elkhorn blaze, burning at high elevation in densely forested slopes six miles northeast of the village of North Fork, grew by about 50 acres early Sunday, said Steve Butterworth, spokesman for the interagency team battling the blaze.
“We can call the fire 50 percent contained,” he said Sunday.
The blaze, caused by lightning July 20, has charred 852 acres, or 1.3 square miles, of the Salmon-Challis National Forest, Butterworth said.
Meanwhile, the Quartz Creek fire – burning thick stands of lodgepole pine and alpine fir four miles north of Yellow Pine in the Payette National Forest – grew 10 acres on Sunday to 90 acres.
A wildlife specialist is assisting fire crews, said Wade Alonzo, a spokesman for the interagency team attached to the blaze. A network of streams in the area is prime habitat for endangered populations of chinook salmon, bull trout and steelhead.
As fire crews draw water, they are “taking extra precaution to protect sensitive species by reducing any silt, retardant or oil and gas that could make its way into the streams,” Alonzo said.
To the south, the Trailhead fire, burning timber under the gnarled peaks of the Sawtooth National Forest near Grandjean, did not grow substantially Sunday.
The Dome fire grew from 750 acres to 1,100 acres, or 1.7 square miles, before fire managers from BLM’s Boise District contained the blaze with a ring of fire line Sunday afternoon, spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto said.