Soda Fire in Idaho nears containment

(UPDATED at 4:25 p.m. MT, August 18, 2015)

Fire managers are calling the Soda fire southwest of Boise, Idaho, 90 percent contained.

The demobilization process will begin today, August 18, and most firefighting resources will be reassigned to other fires in the west. The remaining crews and engines will continue to patrol, look for any smokes, and assist in the rehabilitation of containment lines.

As the Soda Fire nears 100% containment, a federal Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team is being convened to begin field work as early as Wednesday. The BAER Team of natural resource specialists will assess damage and design emergency stabilization and rehabilitation treatments for BLM lands. This assessment focuses on mitigating threats to life, property, and resources within the burned area over the next 3 years.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team will be transitioning the Soda Fire to a local BLM Type 3 Team at 6am Wednesday, August 19, 2015.

This will be our last update on the Soda Fire unless there is a significant upward change in fire activity.

(Update June 3, 2016: the final size was 279,144 acres.)

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(UPDATED at 9:18 a.m. MT, August 15, 2015)

Map Soda Fire
Map of the Soda Fire (red line) at 9 p.m. MT, August 14, 2015. The brown and red dots represent heat detected by a satellite as late as 10:05 p.m. MT, August 14, 2015. The fire was actively spreading near the location of the red dots at that time — the red dots were the most current. (click to enlarge)

Friday evening the Soda Fire only had one area that with a large amount of fire activity, and that was on the southeast side where the fire was spreading to the southeast in the direction of Murphy, Idaho. This fire is very hard for heat-sensing mapping systems to track because in many areas the vegetation is grass or light brush that ignites, burns up quickly, and may cool off before an infrared aircraft or heat-sensing satellite passes over.

The fire has burned about 265,000 acres.

From InciWeb, August 14, 2015:

The Owyhee County Dispatch issued notification for residents to prepare for evacuations in the Bailey Road, Reynolds Road near feedlot, China Ditch, and Wilson Creek due to extreme fire behavior caused by high winds and terrain that is aligned with the wind. Highway 78 open at this time.

There is limited air support at this time due to the very high winds (30-40 mph). A very large air tanker was used throughout the day in conjunction with crews and dozers to construct containment lines along the Willow and Reynolds Creek areas.

Friday afternoon the wind was gusting at 30 to 43 mph out of the southwest and later the northwest, while the relative humidity got as low as 8 percent at 7 p.m. The forecast on Saturday for the southeast portion of the fire is for 81 degrees, 18 percent RH, mostly sunny skies, and 10 mph winds from the northwest shifting to the north in the afternoon. With the lower wind speeds on Saturday the fire should not spread as quickly as it did Friday afternoon.

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(UPDATED at 12:36 p.m. MT, August 14, 2015)

soda fire
A tweet by KBOI at about 10:30 a.m. MT, August 14, 2015.

At 2 a.m. on August 14, the Owyhee County Sheriffs office recommended (but did not require) an evacuation near the Soda Fire for the Wilson Creek area south of Hwy 78 at milepost 16 through 18 due to increased fire activity. This area includes the Gibbons Hot Springs and the Hard Trigger Road. The Sheriff is asking people to please be prepared to evacuate. There are no mandatory evacuation orders in place on the Soda Fire.

The blaze is burning grass and sagebrush in Oregon and Idaho 14 miles southwest of Caldwell and 11 miles southwest of Nampa, Idaho (see the map below). The incident management team reports it has now blackened 265,000 acres.

Friday could be a big day on the fire, and dangerous for firefighters.  The area is under a Red Flag Warning from noon on Friday until midnight for southwesterly winds reaching 18 to 25 mph with gusts to 35 mph in the afternoon. Friday night the wind will shift to come out of the west and then the northwest. The relative humidity will dip to 10 to 15 percent Friday afternoon.

You can monitor the weather conditions updated once an hour at the Owyhee weather station, 5 miles west of the northern end of the fire. At 11:52 a.m. on Friday it recorded 85 degrees, 14 percent humidity, and southwest winds of 8 mph gusting to 17 mph.

soda fire
The red line represents the perimeter of the Soda Fire as mapped by an aircraft at 2 a.m. MT Aug 14, 2015. The white line was the perimeter the day before, and was an estimate Wildfire Today developed based on heat detected by a satellite.

Strong winds Thursday night caused increased fire activity in the Reynolds Creek and Wilson Creek drainages on the southeast flank of the fire. Over 300 additional firefighting resources were put in place to reinforce the line through the night.

The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team led by Incident Commander Todd Pechota will shadow Great Basin Incident Management Team 5 Friday in preparation for assuming command of the southern section of the fire Saturday morning.

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(UPDATED at 5:50 p.m. MT, August 13, 2015)

Soda Fire Aug 13, 2015
Satellite image of the Map showing the Soda Fire, August 13, 2015, showing smoke drifting toward the northwest. The red dots represent heat. NASA.

Soda Fire

The incident management team for the Soda Fire southeast of Boise, Caldwell, and Nampa, reports that as of Thursday afternoon the fire had burned 218,000 acres. (see the maps above and below) 

The perimeter of the fire is approximately 91 miles.

Great Basin Incident Management Team 5 assumed command of the fire the morning of August 13. An additional Incident Management Team from the Rocky Mountain area will arrive Saturday .

The Incident Command Post is at the Armory in Homedale, ID.

map Soda fire
Approximate perimeter map of Soda Fire, 2:30 a.m. MT, Aug 13, 2015. It was created by connecting the dots of heat detected by the MODIS satellite. (click to enlarge)

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(Originally published at 2:15 p.m MT, August 12, 2015; updated at 4:32 p.m. MT, August 12, 2015)

soda fire
The Soda fire, August 10, 2015. InciWeb photo.

The Soda Fire, an interstate fire that started in Oregon and burned into Idaho, achieved the threshold we have set to designate Megafire status, 100,000 acres, when it reached that standing about 48 hours after it was reported August 10.

The lead paragraph for the fire on InciWeb, which was written when the fire was only 10,000 acres, said strong winds “created containment issues on the northwest and east flanks of the fire”. They were absolutely correct, which was proved later when the north and east sides grew to increase the size to 130,000 acres, according to the Great Basin Coordinating Center on Wednesday.

The map of the fire below only shows heat that was detected in passes several hundred miles above the Earth by a satellite. Some of the light fuels had cooled in the hours between passes, and were not detected by the sensors.

Map of Soda Fires
Map of the Soda and other fires near the Oregon/Idaho border, 1:43 p.m. MT, August 12, 2015.

The Soda Fire and perhaps the others not too far away must be creating quite a show for the residents of Caldwell, 16 miles northeast of the fire, or those in Boise, 34 miles to the northeast. However, it may be too smoky in Caldwell for the population to see more than a mile or two.

Kim Martin’s Type 1 Incident Management Team will transition into managing the fire on August 12.

Soda Fire map
Satellite image of the Map showing the Soda Fire, August 12, 2015, showing smoke drifting toward the northeast. The red dots represent heat. NASA

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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5 thoughts on “Soda Fire in Idaho nears containment”

  1. I was headed to Boise from Twin Falls and watched the fire from the Freeway
    even with all the Smoke you could see 3 distinct columns in 3 seperiate locations.
    It was really smoking in Boise when we left last night. It has been a long, long time since that country out their burned at least in any thing this size.

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