Firefighters are reporting some progress against major Idaho wildfires, though there are currently nine major fires burning and several are proving difficult to bring under control. The evacuation of Featherville due to the giant Trinity Ridge fire was lifted on Sunday for residents, and that blaze is now 43 percent contained; Boise's skies have noticeably cleared of smoke over the past two days, though air quality was predicted to remain in the moderate range. (An earlier official report that the fire was 68 percent contained turned out to be a calculation error; it was adjusted downward to 43 percent today to correct that.) Full containment on the Trinity Ridge fire still isn't expected until Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, the Halstead fire is just 3 miles north of Stanley and is only 7 percent contained, and the Mustang Complex fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest is 16 percent contained with an estimated containment date of Sept. 30. Both those fires were started by lightning, while the Trinity Ridge fire is classified as human-caused, having started when an ATV caught fire Aug. 3. Idaho also has five active wildfires burning in the Nez Perce National Forest and one in the Clearwater, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Click below for a fire update from the AP.
3 big Idaho wildfires resist containment efforts
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Firefighters in Idaho continue to battle three large wildfires that are proving difficult to bring under control.
In central Idaho, the 194-square-mile Halstead Fire is only 7 percent contained and on Sunday was about 100 yards from power lines that provide power to the mountain tourist town of Stanley.
The Custer County Sheriff's Office late Saturday told residents of about 30 homes between Sunbeam and Yankee Fork to evacuate, and that the agency couldn't guarantee the safety of those who remained behind.
The fire late on Saturday also sent out embers across a fire line that started spot fires on the east side of Yankee Fork Road.
"But firefighters were able to swoop in and extinguish all the spot fires," said fire spokesman Eric Mosley.
He said crews on Sunday have been setting back burns using firefighters on the ground and starting fires using helicopters to drop small incendiary spheres. He also said firefighters painted the wooden power poles with a fire-resistant coating and firefighters are positioned to protect them from fire.
The fire has moved to within about three miles north of Stanley, but State Highways 75 and 21 remain open.
Mosley also said there are modern mining operations in the area that fire crews are protecting as well as historic mining structures, including a large dredge. About 560 personnel are assigned to the fire that is also being fought by seven helicopters.
To the south, back burns on the 226-square-mile Trinity Ridge Fire have been effective in protecting Featherville and an evacuation order was lifted Sunday morning. Crews in recent days have been trying to slow the fire's growth toward the Middle Fork Boise River with helicopter water drops. About 1,200 personnel are assigned to the fire that is 31 percent contained.
Along the Idaho-Montana border, fire managers say the 329-square-mile Mustang Complex of fires will be difficult to contain without rain or snow.
Fire officials on Wednesday issued various evacuation levels for residents near the fire that remain in effect. Residents along Highway 93 between Hull and Sheep have been advised to leave immediately.
More than 900 wildland firefighters are fighting the blaze that is 16 percent contained and has burned across the Idaho border into Montana. Officials say more firefighters are being called in.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.