BOISE – A series of wildfires in the mountain forests across southern Idaho were being fought Wednesday by more than 1,000 firefighters, dozens of planes and helicopters.
It’s safe to say that wildfire season has arrived in Idaho.
“It’s probably going to be like this for a while,” said Ed Delgado, predictive services program manager of the National Interagency Fire Center. “August is the big transition month for us, when we get out of the fires burning grass and rangelands and migrating into timber and the higher mountains.”
Wildfire managers were focused on three blazes burning in higher elevation forests and have dispatched crews and equipment to at least six other major fires across southern Idaho.
The Trinity Ridge Fire burning near the small mountain town of Featherville has so far scorched more than 27 square miles, with growth of the fire Wednesday projected at 20 square miles. The fire, caused by a utility vehicle, was threatening more than a dozen structures and has forced evacuations of homes and cabins in the area. Forest managers were poised to close down the popular Trinity Lakes Recreation Area, Boise National Forest spokesman Dave Olson said Wednesday.
North of Boise, crews were battling the Springs Fire between Banks and Crouch and along the banks of the South Fork of the Payette River, a popular waterway for kayakers and floaters.
Rafters on the South Fork Payette River can still float but need to use caution traveling through the river where the helicopters are dipping.
On Tuesday night, a spot fire broke out from the bigger blaze and jumped a section of the river, putting more properties in danger. Fire officials issued a notice encouraging residents to prepare for an evacuation.
A section of the fire burning along Highway 55 has also triggered a series of rock falls, forcing the closure of a four-mile section of the main route connecting Boise with the communities of Cascade and McCall, popular weekend getaways.
In central Idaho, more than 420 firefighters were working to control the Halstead Fire, which has burned more than 53 square miles north of Stanley since it was sparked by lightning on July 27. The fire has forced the closure of at least four campgrounds in an area prized by hikers and mountain bikers, and roads that provide access to parts of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.
“We are expecting the hot and dry weather to continue for the next few days,” Delgado said. “And as we look beyond, we’ll start to see an increase in the chances for thunderstorms and with it the chances for more lightning and fires.”