Friday, September 16, 2005

Valley Road Fire weakens

White Cloud Mountain trails may not open until next year

Express Staff Writer

Crews continued to work a line around the smoldering Valley Road Fire, which since Tuesday remained relatively stationary at about 40,800 acres in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, southeast of Stanley. It is now 80 percent contained.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team, which has been in command of fire operations since Sept. 4—a day after the fire was sparked on private property—will pass responsibility over to a smaller Type 3 team of approximately 90 personnel this morning.

As of Thursday, 14 crews, and 7 helicopters—a total of 490 personnel—were working the fire, which had charred mostly beetle-killed lodgepole pine in the White Cloud Mountains about 15 miles south of Stanley.

Fifteen percent of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area remained closed on Thursday, and U.S. Forest Service officials believe the trails in the burned area will remain off limits until next year.

"Trailheads have been totally destroyed, there's nothing there but ash and soot," said one Forest Service official who would not give his name. "The way the wind will pick it up and carry (the fire) once in a while, we prefer to have nobody in there at all."

The fire started near Valley Road, just east of state Highway 75, and rapidly ran north and east. According to a fire coverage map from the Sawtooth National Forest, the eastern most section of the blaze reached Fourth of July Lake while the northern edge of the fire came within a few miles of Robinson Bar Peak. The heart of the blaze ran through the Warm Springs Creek drainage.

According to a press release from the incident management team, crews "made significant progress on fire line construction on the west and north flanks of the fire during the past three days."

Fire activity is characterized as, "smoldering, creeping, (with the) periodic burnout of heavy pockets of fuel."

Hot spots remain at the north end of the fire.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Maj. Gen. Lawrence Lafrenz of the Idaho National Guard, and representatives of the Idaho Department of Homeland Security all visited the fire Thursday. A Burned Area Emergency Response Team continues to assess the fire area. Measures to protect spawning salmon and trout habitat have been put in place, according to the press release. Efforts to mitigate the spread of noxious weeds as the forest recovers are also ongoing.

One structure and two outbuildings were lost at the Aztec Mine site, at the end of Fisher Creek Road. No homes were lost to the fire, and no major injuries were reported. All evacuations have been lifted.

For more information regarding trail and forest road closures, call the Stanley Ranger Station at (208) 774-3000.

Rain and snow showers are expected to accompany a cold front that will move through the area Friday night.

 Local Weather 
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