Aspens Muldoon

Aspens are recovering in Muldoon Canyon east of Bellevue after the Sharps Fire ravaged the area in 2018.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare counted 769 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide since Friday, including 282 today. That brings the total at 27,942, of which 11,093 have recovered. Another eight people died with coronavirus considered a contributing factor, raising Idaho’s death toll to 273.

The state counted three more confirmed cases among Blaine County residents over the weekend, leaving the total at 571 confirmed and 15 probable. Every other county in the South Central Public Health District except Camas and Lincoln also saw numbers rise today. St. Luke’s administered 31 COVID-19 tests in Blaine County this weekend. Seven people are awaiting test results.

Today’s top news is mostly wildfire related as crews battle a new blaze and agencies prep restrictions. Here’s more on that, plus other top stories from Monday, Aug. 17.

• Another Red Flag warning is in effect until 10 p.m. tonight. The warning, which denotes the threat of critical fire weather patterns, covers the Wood River Valley and all of Custer County. The warning cites “erratic thunderstorm outflow wind of up to 50 mph” as possible causes of fires in the region, where temperatures have lingered in the 90s.

• The warning comes as crews battle a wildfire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The blaze ignited on Sunday about 20 miles southwest of Mackay and had spread to more than 200 acres by this morning. The exact cause of the fire is currently under investigation, but it began about a half mile away from the Star Hope Campground in the Lost River Ranger District.

• With all the recent fire activity, the Sawtooth National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management’s Twin Falls District and state lands will enter Stage 1 fire restrictions beginning Thursday. The same restrictions will go into place in the Salmon-Challis National Forest on Friday. Stage 1 restrictions prohibit most fires and outdoor smoking in the designated areas, with some exemptions.

• Shifting gears from fire danger, the Ketchum City Council is currently discussing funding for a proposed affordable housing project—the Bluebird Village—slated for construction on the site of the current city hall. The project is hoping to secure $1.4 million from the city’s in-lieu housing fund.

• Meanwhile, the Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission is meeting tonight to continue its discussion of the city’s capital improvement plan update. The draft CIP calls for nearly $4.8 million in improvements to city infrastructure, including $500,000 for a new city hall.

For more top local and regional news, visit at any time, or look for a copy of Wednesday’s Idaho Mountain Express.

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