MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho – Authorities say a man whose burn barrel sparked a large fire could face fines or charges.
The fast-moving fire near the community of Tipanuk, between Boise and Mountain Home, burned 3,400 acres and caused the voluntary evacuation of about 300 people Friday evening, Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Sommers Gerratt said.
Some evacuees spent the night at Mountain Home High School. Everyone had returned home by Saturday morning, Gerratt said.
The fire started about 6 p.m. Friday when a man dumped burned trash from a barrel on his property, Gerratt said. The trash was still smoldering, and wind blew sparks into nearby grass starting the fire, which burned in grass and brush.
Gerratt said authorities are investigating, and it’s not yet clear whether the man will face any charges or fines.
About 100 firefighters from the BLM and the National Forest Service, as well as air crews, battled the blaze. A steady rain Friday night helped minimize the danger to buildings, and fire crews called the fire controlled at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The fire was the second this month in Idaho to be sparked by a burning barrel and force evacuations.
The Valley Road fire caused the evacuation of at least 50 people in the Fisher Creek area about 15 miles southeast of Stanley in early September and eventually burned more than 40,000 acres of timber in the Sawtooth National Forest. None of the evacuated structures was damaged in the fire. That fire started around a burn barrel on a ranch, investigators said. About 60 firefighters are mopping up the Valley Road Fire, which has been burning about two weeks. Today, the U.S. Forest Service plans to reopen the area of the Sawtooth National Forest that was closed earlier this month because of the wildfire. On Sunday, Forest Service officials said they could reopen the area and would also lift a campfire ban and a flight restriction for the area.
“Even though these orders have been removed, we must caution people of the dangers that remain in this area,” said Ruth Monahan, Sawtooth National Forest supervisor, in a prepared statement. Monahan said the area of the fire was still dangerous, and she urged campers to make sure their fires were out before leaving them.
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