By Kimberlee Kruesi Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho — More than 300 personnel have been called in to suppress a wildfire inside the Boise National Forest that tripled in size overnight and is steadily spreading.
The lightning-caused Whiskey Complex Fire consumed 7 square miles of forest land as of Thursday. The increased fire activity leaves residents of 70 homes in the Garden Valley and Pioneerville area on alert for a possible evacuation order for the second day in a row.
Boise National Forest spokesman David Olsen says heavy smoke trapped by an inversion prevented firefighters from being able to use helicopters make water drops Thursday morning.
Although the smoke eventually cleared, 20 mph winds have increased flame activity, he said. The wind also pushed the smoke west into Boise, covering the city in a dull haze for most of Thursday.
“There’s action on all flanks in this fire, particularly on the south end,” Olsen said.
The Whiskey Complex originally comprised three different fires, but one of them consumed another Wednesday, Olsen said. Firefighters are now using natural fire breaks and burnouts as part of the suppression efforts.
Despite multiple wildfires burning throughout the northwest, Olsen said the Whiskey Complex remains a high priority because it’s threatening structures and possible evacuations.
Due to high temperatures and extremely dry fuels, the fire isn’t expected to be contained until the end of July.
East of the Whiskey Complex, firefighters were able to contain nearly half of the remote Blue Jay Fire. The lightning-caused fire has burned about 30 acres 17 miles east of Lowman.
In north-central Idaho, the lightning-caused Preacher Fire has burned more than 50 square miles since Monday. While the fire quickly spread with the help of dry grass and brush, firefighters said they expected to have the fire fully contained by Thursday evening.