Idaho fires short on resources

Wildfires across south-central Idaho kept firefighters busy yesterday, and officials are worried about the Minidoka Complex in Cassia County. They say a lack of resources has set back their efforts at containing the fires.

KMTV News reported that two of the fires on the Minidoka Complex burned actively yesterday, pushing total acreage to over 49,000 acres. A Red Flag Warning is in effect today for thunderstorms and gusty winds.

45,000-acre Cave Canyon Fire, Minidoka Complex
45,000-acre Cave Canyon Fire, Minidoka Complex

The Cave Canyon Fire is now at 45,021 acres after it made a 6-mile run yesterday morning. A DC-10 airtanker made numerous drops on the north side of the fire, and crews are building dozer line on the west and north.
DC-10 drops on Idaho fireThe Deer Hollow Fire burned actively and grew to over 4,000 acres. About 275 people are assigned to the complex, including personnel from Oakley, Burley, and Rock Creek Fire Protection Districts. The complex includes the Cave Canyon, Deer Hollow, Hot Well and Eightmile fires;  the Eightmile is contained at 211 acres. An information meeting is scheduled for 6:30 this evening at Howell’s Opera House in Oakley; Great Basin Incident Management Team 1 is managing the complex.

100,000 gallons and still growing

A wildfire burning in heavy timber 50 miles east of Boise continued to spread even after pilots dropped more than 100,000 gallons of retardant on it. Boise State Public Radio reported that the fire burned through retardant lines on Sunday — the Trinity Ridge Fire grew from 200 acres on Saturday to 1,300 acres Sunday; it is now at 1,800 acres.

Trinity Ridge Fire
Trinity Ridge Fire

The fire gained ground in spite of the 46 runs made by four C-130 MAFFS tankers operating out of Boise. Three SEATs also worked the fire over the weekend.

Dave Olson, incident information officer, said the fire took off Friday in sub-alpine fir and lodgepole, both prone to torching and throwing embers. He said the fire is suspected to be human-caused; firefighters found a burned utility terrain vehicle at the fire’s source. Investigators are seeking the owner of the vehicle.

Additional fire crews have arrived, and a Type 2 team has assumed command.

Yesterday, the fire burned aggressively in the mostly sub-alpine fir and lodgepole pine, with considerable torching and spotting. reported that fire managers say current conditions are much drier then they’d originally thought. “It’s actually drier this year than it was in 2006 and 2007,” said Olson.

Halstead Fire a long-term proposition

The Halstead Fire on the Salmon-Challis National Forest has burned more 18,500 acres, but winds thus far have pushed the fire to the northeast away from the town of Stanley. Boise State Public Radio reported that firefighters are focused on keeping the fire away from Highway 21.

Fire managers say the Halstead Fire will probably burn till the area experiences a “season-ending event.” Bruce Palmer, information officer on the NIMO team managing the fire, says the fire’s burning in rough terrain. “It’s nasty country with a lot of bug kill and heavy fuels,” he says. “And fire behavior has been extreme. The Halstead Fire will be a long-term event and will likely burn until September or even October.”

Halstead Fire morning inversion 07/31
Halstead Fire morning inversion 07/31

Though the fire is in the wilderness, crews will continue active suppression to keep the fire out of the Middle Fork of the Salmon and other recreation areas. The NIMO team managing the fire brings a lot of flexibility to the assignment; agency administrators sometimes prefer the NIMO team because of its long-term staffing option. “We can draw from the four different teams,” explains Palmer, “so we offer continuity in incident management for a fire that may burn for weeks or even months.” The NIMO teams aren’t subject to the 14-day time-outs in the same way that’s required of other incident management teams, because they can stagger their rest days or days off to maintain continuity of the command for the duration of the incident.

Several ranches and a Boy Scout camp were recently threatened by the fire; the camp was evacuated, according to the Idaho Statesman. The fire’s at 21,915 acres today with 332 personnel assigned.

Idaho fire gets NIMO team

The lightning-caused Halstead Fire northwest of Stanley, Idaho, is mapped at 5,047 acres. Resources assigned include six T1 crews, two T2 crews, two T1 helicopters and a T3 helicopter, two T6 engines, and two T4 engines.

Halstead Fire in Idaho
Halstead Fire in Idaho

The fire started on July 27 between Beaver Creek and Marsh Creek; it’s burning in subalpine fir and lodgepole pine. Firefighters are building fuel breaks along Beaver Creek Road; they’ve reported single and group tree torching on the fire. Houseman’s National Incident Management Organization team took command of the fire early this morning.

An Emergency Area Closure was issued yesterday for all access points to the Cape Horn Area, all access to the Seafoam Bubble, all access to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness east of the Middle Fork Wild and Scenic River Corridor, east of Bluebunch Ridge, and north of Lola Creek, the area northwest of the Knapp-Loon Trail and west of the Pinyon-Feltham Road. In addition, the Pinyon Peak Road in its entirety is closed.

Idaho man charged for shooting helicopter which was flying on prescribed fire

An Idaho man has been charged with shooting at and hitting a helicopter that was being used for aerial ignition on a prescribed fire in the fall of 2010. As Wildfire Today told you then, the pilot was 69-year old Vietnam War veteran Earl Palmer, operating the ship for Hillcrest Aircraft Company out of Lewiston, Idaho, assigned to a prescribed fire near Clarkia in Shoshone County

Mr. Palmer said there were four shots, two of which struck the helicopter. He was quoted as saying that a control tube was struck and cracked by a bullet, and that the helicopter was “within minutes of coming apart at which point the helicopter would have wrecked.”  He landed the ship immediately after it was hit.

The Lewiston Tribune reported in a story published May 26 that 58-year-old John Ernest Ross of Fernwood is scheduled to appear in 1st District Court in Wallace on July 10. He is being charged with interfering with or destruction of an aircraft, a violation of Idaho code.

Court records say Ross initially denied shooting at the helicopter, but later said he probably did but had been drinking and couldn’t remember.

The online article at the Lewiston Register web site displays a bit of irony. Below the article  is a display advertisement, probably automatically placed based on the content of the article. The ad says: “Tell Congress: Support the 2nd Amendment. Sign Petition.”, and has a photo of a revolver.