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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Tepee Springs fire closes escape route used yesterday for Salmon River floaters

Things have gotten worse at the Tepee Springs Fire, and the BLM’s Cottonwood Field Office just announced that the escape route that was being used to ferry rafters off the Salmon River at French Creek, via Forest Road 246 to McCall, is no longer safe to use.  

“In the interim, the Idaho County Sheriff’s Department is holding rafters at Vinegar Creek until fire activity safely permits them from being escorted from the area,” the BLM reported in a news release.   “Efforts are also underway to hold rafters further up the river and jet boats are being used to sweep the river for campers and floaters who may not have heard the closure is in effect.” An unprecedented closure order was issued yesterday for a 17.78 miles stretch of the Salmon River upstream of Riggins, as the fire burned toward the river and the town.

The BLM says plans are currently underway to employ piloted shuttle buses from Riggins along the Salmon River Road up-river to transport the stranded rafters, but said, “Fire behavior will determine the feasibility of the plan.” The Forest Service reported yesterday that 275 rafters were on the Main Salmon river, on six- to eight-day float trip that end in the closed area, where they had permits for takeouts yesterday, today or tomorrow. The Salmon is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states; people come from all over the world to raft it.

The fire had jumped to 40,665 acres this morning, from just over 25,000 24 hours earlier.

The National Interagency Fire Center’s Inciweb site reports, “For those floaters that are coming out and the people that are shuttling them, there is currently a pilot car that is leading vehicles to egress and ingress into Vinegar Creek as fire activity allows. Food, water and support are being set up at Vinegar Creek if floaters are held due to fire activity that prevents them from safely being piloted from the area. All shuttles should be prepared to wait in Riggins. You will be allowed to enter when it is safe to travel into Vinegar Creek and you will be escorted into the area by a pilot car.” You can track the fire on Inciweb here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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