The Sawtooth Valley had clear blue skies over the weekend, thanks to a wind shift that cleared away smoke that had been drifting into the region from major fires burning to the west in California and Oregon. However, the respite was short-lived, as fires closer to home began flaring up.
Sunday evening, a formidable plume of smoke could be seen churning skyward from the Boundary Fire, located about 25 miles northwest of Stanley. High winds pushed the blaze four miles to the northeast on Sunday. By Tuesday morning, it had grown by almost 1,000 acres, reaching 4,731 acres. At that time, it was considered 70% contained, according to InciWeb, a federal fire tracking service.
Over the weekend and into the early part of this week, it had been showing “extreme activity,” included 100-foot flame lengths that sent spot fires on gusty winds up to one-third of mile ahead of the main fire front.
The column of smoke from the Boundary Fire could be seen on Monday from the Treasure Valley, Cascade, McCall, and Stanley, Forest Service officials said. The communities of Challis, Salmon, and the Pahsimeroi and Lemhi Valleys observed drift smoke from the fire.
“While yesterday’s fire activity was more extreme than anticipated, the point protection strategy firefighters are using was a success, as impacts to the values at risk in the fire’s vicinity was minimal,” stated a Monday report on InciWeb.
The lightning-caused fire started on Aug. 10. Five days later it led to the closure of the Boundary Creek access point for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, a popular boating destination. An alternate put-in at Indian Creek has been in use..
Dry and gusty conditions were expected to exacerbate the fire behavior on Tuesday and Wednesday, challenging firefighters working to protect structures and other resources.
“Values at risk” to be protected are defined as “property, structures, physical improvements, natural and cultural resources, community infrastructure, and economic, environmental, and social values such as the Middle Fork River corridor.”
According to reports, firefighters continue to evaluate the fire’s progression and monitor growth towards Morgan and Sulphur Ranches. Crews were on site on Monday at Sulphur Creek Ranch, Morgan Ranch, and Boundary Guard Station.
Due to fire danger, all of Dagger Falls Road and the Boundary Creek campground and Dagger Falls campground are closed. Salmon-Challis National Forest river staff are communicating with boaters who have upcoming launch dates to inform trip leaders of the situation.
An InciWeb report on Monday morning stated that the Boundary Fire is now established east of the Middle Fork and expected to grow in the presence of gusty winds and low humidity through mid-week. There was limited fire growth to the west and south.
Salmon-Challis National Forest Public Information Officer Amy Baumer said on Monday morning that fire containment is not expected until Oct. 30.
The National Interagency Fire Center’s National Preparedness Level is 5, which is the highest level of wildland fire activity. This means that several geographic areas are experiencing large, complex wildland fire incidents, which have the potential to exhaust national wildland firefighting resources.
For updated information on wildfire smoke coverage go to idsmoke.blogspot.com.