BOISE – Firefighters on Sunday faced the possibility of a long battle against a wildfire burning in heavy timber 50 miles east of Boise after an intense effort a day earlier that included dropping more than 100,000 gallons of fire retardant failed to keep the blaze in check.
Fire spokesman Dave Olson said the Trinity Ridge Fire in the Boise National Forest expanded Saturday despite 46 runs by four military C-130 cargo planes based at the nearby Boise Air Terminal and more drops by three single-engine air tankers. Retardant drops continued Sunday, but not at the same pace as Saturday, and the fire grew to about 2 square miles.
“We were really trying to catch this,” Olson said. “Now it has the potential to burn for a longer period of time. We’re just worried that there are going to be new starts with any kind of lightning events, and the fewer fires we have to deal with the better.”
Olson said the fire started Friday and is burning sub-alpine fir and lodgepole pine that are prone to torching and throwing embers, starting new fires. He said that’s what happened Saturday afternoon and thwarted efforts to contain the fire before it got too big.
“The trees will just totally torch out and become fully engaged,” he said. “We know that it’s an extremely dry forest in that area. We have a type of fuel that is very difficult to build a fire line around. It has a lot of country to burn in. So it will be a challenge.”
The fire is burning about 10 miles northwest of Featherville in Elmore County. Olson said no structures are threatened, but the area includes habitat for bull trout, a threatened species. More firefighters are being called in to bolster the 130 at the scene and a Type 2 Incident Management Team is expected to arrive later Sunday. Some parts of the Boise National Forest near the fire have been closed.
Olson said the fire is likely human caused because firefighters found a burned utility terrain vehicle at the fire’s source. Investigators are trying to determine who owns the vehicle.