Though rain has aided their assault on several fires burning in central Idaho, firefighters today are trying to make as much progress as possible before dry, hot windy conditions return by the end of the week.
Hundreds of firefighters are battling a nearly 40,000 acre blaze called the Clear Creek fire, which is approximately 50 miles west of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. In western Idaho, approximately 450 firefighters are combating the 3100-acre Burgdorf Junction fire in Payette National Forest. A rainstorm Tuesday helped officials contain a third fire, Fenster Fire, which had burned 3,500 acres in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
According to Idaho’s Fire Information Center, firefighters today have attempted to capitalize on cloudy, humid weather conditions and make significant progress before fire-conducive weather conditions return. The National Weather Service has predicted that high temperatures and dry and windy conditions will return to central Idaho by the end of the week and could hamper firefighting efforts.
“This is the sort of weather where you do all you can to contain the fires,” said Russell Hubright, fire information officer for the Clear Creek and Fensters blazes. “The weather service is predicting hot temperatures to return in a few days followed by a cold front that could bring heavy winds. So, the idea is that we want to do all we can to contain the fire.”
Short-Term Help Despite its size, the Clear Creek fire has destroyed only four structures, Hubright said. It is about 10 percent contained. Both the Fenster and Clear Creek fires — both started by lightning — were first detected July 10.
Though the rain has helped, Hubright says fire officials are still keeping a close eye on the Fenster blaze.
“The rainfall that occurred on Tuesday gave us a short-term benefit, particularly over rangelands which absorb the precipitation more readily,” said Rick Ochoa, a National Weather Service fire expert in Boise. “But it really has no impact on the fire season.”
The Burgdorf Junction fire, National Fire Information Center officials say, is approximately 23 percent contained. Dense vegetation, steep terrain, and winds had hampered firefighters’ efforts, but ensuing rain later helped. Another blaze, the Bare Canyon Fire in the Targhee National Forest 32 miles of Dubois, has scorched 500 acres and is 80 percent contained. Fire officials hope to have the Fenster Fire fully controlled by Thursday.
New Fire Restrictions Though Mother Nature caused the Clear Creek and Fenster Fires, Idaho and federal officials are planning to impose new restrictions on visitors to the forests. With the series of fires that have sprouted over the state, federal and state authorities Thursday will officially ban fires and smoking in the following Idaho forests: the Boise, Caribou, Payette, Salmon-Challis, Sawtooth and Targhee.
Fires will still be allowed in developed recreation sites. Officials say that people who violate the restrictions could be fined up to $5,000 and imprisoned for up to six months.ABCNEWS’ Bryan Robinson, ABC News Affiliate KIFI, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.