Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Potato Fire burns on near Stanley

Trailhead Fire under control

Express Staff Writer

A new fire in the Sawtooth National Forest, dubbed the Potato Fire, was sparked on Friday night by lightning and by Saturday had spread to 3,194 acres due to high winds and bug-killed fir and lodgepole pine trees. The fire is approximately 7 miles north of Stanley and 1 mile west of the Bonanza Guards Station in the Yankee Fork drainage. It is 5 percent contained according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. On site are six crews, three helicopters, five fire engines and three bulldozers.

At least nine homes were evacuated as flames from the Potato Fire moved east. Roads were closed and several cabins were wrapped in fire-resistant material. A temporary flight restriction is also in effect. Portions of Basin Creek and Rankin Creek trails are closed, and no public travel is allowed from state Highway 75 to Yankee Fork Road and Loon Creek Guard Station.

On Tuesday, more engines and fire crews joined the Blue Mountain Interagency Incident Management Team that is directing all assembled resources. The Custer County Sheriff's Office is handling evacuation operations in the area, said Nick Lundy incident commander.

Over the weekend, the National Interagency Fire Center rose the threat level to 5, the highest possible. Nearly all firefighting crews and firefighting resources are currently committed, as there are 46 active large fires around the country.

Meanwhile, the Trailhead Fire near Grandjean was declared fully controlled at 6 p.m. Monday. Smoke remains in the burn area. Incident Commander Buz Vanskike said he will be monitoring the area from the air to "make sure any lingering hot spots remain well within the control lines."

The 20-square-mile area and trail closure remains in effect, however. The cost of suppressing this human-caused fire exceeded $1.5 million, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

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