Friday, August 3, 2007

Where?s the smoke coming from?

An estimated 900,000 acres-plus burning across Idaho

Express Staff Writer

Bald Mountain is obscured by smoke Thursday morning. A smoky haze blanketed the Wood River Valley Wednesday and Thursday, and the smell of smoke permeated the air in some areas. Photo by David N. Seelig

Idaho's distinctive blue skies are obscured by smoke from an estimated 13 fires charring 906,864 acres across the state.

According to statistics presented by the National Interagency Fire Center Web site, Idaho has more acres burning than any other state in the nation. Montana is a very distant second with 121,773 acres ablaze.

The Wood River Valley was noticeably more smoky on Thursday morning and that could be from any number of fires, said Robbie Englehart, assistant chief of the Ketchum Fire Department.

"There are so many fires out there," Englehart said. "We are virtually ringed by fire to the southwest and north. The Trapper Fire between Idaho City and Stanley made a pretty big run with torching yesterday, and there is a new fire in Mountain Home. It seems like it has gotten worse in the last few days."

Steve Van Zandt, an air quality science officer with the Idaho Environmental Department of Air Quality in Twin Falls, said his guess is the Wood River Valley is getting hit with smoke from the Cold Fire, burning 16 miles southeast of Mountain Home. That fire is 3,000 acres and is threatening homes, according to the NIFC.

There was a false alarm for a fire on Baldy Thursday morning. Englehart said the person who phoned in the report most likely saw a reflection from a lift tower or glass in one of the lift shacks that coupled with the heavy smoke appeared to be a blaze.

The largest blaze in Idaho is the Murphy Complex Fire (653,100 acres) on Bureau of Land Management property in the Twin Falls District, 56 miles south of Twin Falls, but 100 percent containment is expected today, which means firefighters have completely encircled the blaze.

Van Zandt said the air quality in Twin Falls is still good, although it appears to be worse than when the Murphy Complex Fire was actively burning. There is no monitor for air quality in the Wood River Valley.

The NIFC reports there are 33 large fires burning in seven Western states; Idaho, Montana, California, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, totaling 1,174,124 acres.


Fires in Idaho include:

Southwest Idaho:

· Cold Fire, Boise District, 3,000 acres, zero percent contained.

· Middle Fork Complex, Boise National Forest, 10,100 acres, 40 percent contained.

· Cascade Complex, Boise National Forest, 39,776 acres, nine percent contained.

· Trapper Ridge Fire, Boise National Forest, 13,776 acres, no containment reported.

South Central Idaho:

· Murphy Complex, Twin Falls District, 653,100 acres, 98 percent contained.

Central Idaho:

· Van Horn Fire, Salmon-Challis National Forest, 1,650 acres, 85 percent contained.

North Central Idaho:

· East-Zone Complex, Payette National Forest, 34,323 acres, 20 percent contained.

· Krassel Complex, Payette National Forest, 17,913 acres, no containment reported.

· Raines Fire, Payette National Forest, 23,215 acres, unknown percent contained.

· Chimney Complex, Craig Mountain Area Office, 51,000 acres, 87 percent contained.

· Poe Cabin, Craig Mountain Area Office, 55,000 acres, 65 percent contained.

· Rattlesnake Fire, Nez Perce National Forest, 26,100 acres, 10 percent contained.

· Bridge Fire, Clearwater National Forest, 9.600 acres, zero percent contained.

The Idaho Transportation Department provides information about road closures on-line at or by dialing 5-1-1.


Express reporter Andy Stiny contributed to this story.

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