Evacuations ordered ahead of 2 Idaho wildfires

  • Sun Sep 9th, 2012 5:42pm
  • News

By Keith Ridler Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — Authorities issued evacuation orders Sunday for Idaho residents in the path of two wildfires where expected strong winds and low humidity could make firefighting difficult.

The Lehmi County Sheriff issued an evacuation order early Sunday for residents along U.S. Highway 93 from Quartz Creek to North Fork threatened by the Mustang Complex of wildfires on the Montana border that officials fear could spread with high winds. Law enforcement officials Sunday morning were going door to door notifying residents of about 400 homes.

On the other side of the state along the Oregon border, fire officials said evacuations were taking place ahead of the 2.5-square-mile Sheep Fire. Officials advised residents in the vicinity of Florence to evacuate as well as residents and recreationists along U.S. Forest Service Roads 221 and 441. About 150 personnel are assigned to the blaze but officials said firefighters have been pulled off fire lines to protect buildings.

Fire officials said the 408-square-mile Mustang Complex of fires on the eastern edge of the state is about two miles from the community of North Fork. The lightning-caused fire started July 30 and is 16 percent contained. More than 1,100 personnel are assigned to the blaze.

“Today will be a test of our operational objectives for sure,” said fire information officer Bill Swartley. “We’re probably looking at a 24-hour wind event here.”

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for noon to 9 p.m. Sunday for the region, predicting winds of more than 25 mph combined with low humidity. Winds are expected to channel through canyons.

Swartley said the evacuation order was partly to have residents out of the area and off roads so firefighters called in this weekend from around the region to protect buildings would have an easier time maneuvering.

He said one firefighter was injured on Saturday and had to be taken to a hospital by ambulance, but he had no additional information.

He also said the fire has destroyed the historic Beartrap Fire Lookout, built in 1919 and refurbished in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

At the human-caused Sheep Fire, about seven miles north of Riggins, fire spokeswoman Mariah Leuschen said the human-caused fire that started Thursday had ballooned to 40 square miles by Sunday afternoon.

“It’s pretty dynamic at this point and a lot of fire activity out there,” she said. “Evacuation notices are going out pretty fast and we don’t have a good number. We don’t have a good estimate of the number of structures or people affected, but there are numerous structures threatened.”

She said the U.S. Forest Service has closed some roads in the area and is making sweeps to get recreationists out.

About 150 personnel are assigned to the blaze but firefighters have been pulled off lines to protect buildings. Leuschen said two air tankers and four helicopters on Sunday worked to slow the fire’s spread.

Other wildfires also continued burning in the state.

In central Idaho, firefighters had the 228-square-mile Trinity Ridge Fire near Featherville 64 percent contained, though officials said pockets of heavy fuel in the interior of the fire perimeter continue to burn.

To the north, the 232-square-mile Halstead Fire near Stanley was 35 percent contained. Crews are continuing to use suppression efforts in some areas while starting rehabilitation efforts in areas already burned. Officials said they don’t expect over the next several days any road closures to the tourist destination of Stanley.