State Highway 55, the main route between Boise and McCall, closed to all traffic at 12:30 today, as an out-of-control wildfire sent rolling debris and falling trees onto the road. The route is closed from north of Horseshoe Bend to just south of Banks, and the problem spot is the long stretch where the road twists and turns along the Payette River, with a steep hillside rising up on one side and the river on the other. The fire is right up that steep hillside. The fire started yesterday at 5 p.m., and caused some pretty serious delays last night when the usual traffic crush hit at the end of the holiday weekend.
It seems that the fire season is hitting hardest at some of Idaho’s most popular tourist areas as the summer season closes, with Sun Valley hard-hit last week by a wildfire that canceled holiday weekend events, forced evacuations of more than 2,000 homes in the Ketchum area, and prompted the Sun Valley ski resort to turn on its snowmaking guns to act as a sprinkler system to keep back the flames on the mountain.
While that blaze, the Castle Rock fire, was fully contained today at just over 48,000 acres, the Grey’s Creek fire is burning not far from Tamarack Resort and sending smoke and ash into Cascade and McCall; the Cascade Complex fire 16 miles northeast of Cascade has burned 258,000 acres and is just 30 percent contained; and the East Zone Complex, 25 miles northeast of McCall, has burned 228,500 acres and is just 10 percent contained. Major wildfires also are burning near Challis, Elk City, Murphy, Oakley and more. Structures are threatened in many of the fires and evacuations are in effect. Popular whitewater rafting stretches of the Main Salmon and Middle Fork of the Salmon River were closed for two weeks due to fires, though most reopened on Saturday.
Overall, Idaho’s still tied with Montana for the most major wildfires in the nation, with 13. But Idaho’s nearly 900,000 acres of wildfires far outstrips any other state.