IDAHO CITY – Firefighters have set up sprinkler systems on homes in a central Idaho town and also plan to start two simultaneous burnouts Thursday to stop a 78-square-mile wildfire from coming down a creek drainage that funnels into the community.
Winds switched to coming out of the northwest, prompting fire managers to make the call for the double-burnout operation to protect the town of Lowman from the wildfire that’s about 2 miles away.
“We’re hopefully going to control the fire with our fire to get it all burned together,” said fire spokeswoman Jennifer Myslivy. “It could be a two- or three-day operation.”
Nearly 1,500 firefighters are battling the blaze burning timber in rugged terrain. Winds have in previous days been coming out of the south and pushing flames north, forcing firefighters to abandon fire lines on several occasions as the fire moved toward Lowman.
The burnout operations are in the Rock Creek drainage. Fire officials say the plan is to start prescribed burns simultaneously on the east and west sides until both reach a 400-acre prescribed burn carried out last spring intended to reduce the wildfire risk to homes in the area.
“Hopefully, fire behavior will moderate when it gets to that area,” said Stephaney Kerley, spokeswoman for the Boise National Forest.
No evacuations have been ordered but the county sheriff has told residents to be alert.
The fire has destroyed a state-operated backcountry yurt. The $60,000 yurt is a round, tent-like structure with a dome roof and plastic skin. It’s not clear what day it was destroyed.
There are six yurts in the system that the state operates on the Boise National Forest under an agreement with the Forest Service and that are booked months in advance for winter use by backcountry skiers.
At least two other yurts have survived. Myslivy said Thursday crews have not been able to check on the condition of the three other yurts.
State Highway 21 is closed from 6 miles north of Idaho City to south of Lowman.
County Highway 17, also called the Banks-Lowman Road, remains open and officials have said they’ll try to keep it open even if that requires using lead vehicles to guide motorists through.
Officials estimate the fire won’t be contained until mid-September.