July 24, 2007 in Idaho

Murphy Complex fire still raging

The Spokesman-Review
 

An 887-square-mile wildfire that has burned near several communities on the Idaho-Nevada border continues to scorch grass, sagebrush and scrubby juniper trees in rugged terrain.

The Murphy Complex fire was keeping about 560 firefighters busy, including a Type 1 team that manages large, complicated fires.

It’s just one of 14 blazes burning from the Panhandle to the state’s southeastern corner. Idaho was the West’s busiest fire state Monday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

Wildfires were burning across about 1,300 square miles of the state – about twice the area burning in Nevada, the next-busiest state.

Gov. Butch Otter issued disaster emergency declarations for five counties, which could allow them to get additional state support if large fires erupt in those areas in the next 30 days. Cassia, Idaho, Nez Perce, Owyhee and Twin Falls counties all asked Otter to declare the emergency, citing fears that dry weather, hot temperatures and dry lightning will set off more blazes in coming weeks.

The lightning-caused Poe Cabin fire six miles from the north-central Idaho community of White Bird on a patchwork of federal, state and private land had grown to 44 square miles, after it started last Friday in 5-foot-tall grass then spread into timber.

In the Boise National Forest in south-central Idaho, 30 fires combined north of Garden Valley to make up the Middle Fork and Cascade fire complexes.

No traffic deaths reported for Fourth

Increased emphasis patrols combined with the luck of the calendar to give Idaho highways a fatality-free Fourth of July holiday this year, according to the state Transportation Department.

Kevin Bechen, of the department’s Office of Highway Safety, said, “The fact that the holiday was smack in the middle of the week may have had some effect on that.” But he also credits major emphasis patrols by 34 law enforcement agencies, funded by a federal grant. The patrols targeted impaired drivers.

Last year’s July Fourth holiday saw five highway traffic fatalities, one of them alcohol-related. The previous year, there were four deaths, one alcohol-related, and in 2004, three deaths, two of which were alcohol-related. This is for the period from 6 p.m. the day before the holiday to 5:59 a.m. the day after.

Emphasis patrols issued more than 600 citations, made 51 DUI arrests, apprehended 10 fugitives, recovered two stolen vehicles and made 18 drug arrests.

Spokane

Complaint cites attorney for S-R

A Spokane journalist said he has filed a complaint against The Spokesman-Review’s lawyer for what he believes is a conflict of interest over the River Park Square redevelopment project.

Tim Connor, who writes for the online publication Camas Magazine, contends attorney Duane Swinton and his firm, Witherspoon Kelley, had a conflict because he served simultaneously as the newspaper’s legal adviser on issues such as open meetings and public documents and as the counsel to the mall development companies that were negotiating aspects of the project with the city of Spokane.

The newspaper and the mall development companies are owned by the same parent company, Cowles Co.

Connor sent copies of the complaint to the newspaper with a news release saying it was filed Monday with the state Bar Association. Judy Berrett, a spokeswoman for the Bar Association, said court rules prohibit the organization from commenting on whether complaints are filed.

“Anybody who might have an ax to grind against an attorney could file a complaint,” Berrett said.

Swinton said he believes the complaint is “without merit because there was no conflict of interest.”

From staff and wire reports

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