Friday, August 17, 2007

Fairfield-area fire brought under control

Residents burning dead vegetation caused the blaze, BLM official says


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Photo by George Martin As a herd of cattle takes cover, firefighters get an early start on battling the Cow Creek Fire near Fairfield Saturday.

Firefighters working on the 5,292-acre Cow Creek Fire 13 miles west of Fairfield have brought the large blaze under control.

Brock Astle, fire information officer for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Twin Falls District, said Thursday that while the blaze hasn't been officially declared contained, the more than 150 firefighters have constructed a network of fire line all the way around the fire. He said that even though there is still some smoldering going on near the center of the fire, the outlook for the blaze is good.

"They're expecting no growth, but that's weather dependent," he said.

Earlier this week, Astle confirmed that the Cow Creek Fire, reported to fire officials around 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, was threatening several isolated Camas County ranches as well as significant stands of timber located on state land managed by the Idaho Department of Lands. However, he said fire crews were able to keep the blaze away from any structures.

Astle said fire investigators have determined the blaze was caused by local residents conducting a burn to remove dead vegetation from private land to provide a clearing. He said that although the fire appeared to be out, embers from the burn were carried away by winds over manmade barriers. He said investigators haven't determined if those at fault for the blaze should be held liable for the cost of fighting the fire.

The fire burned on private, state and BLM lands north of U.S. Highway 20 between Fairfield and Hill City in rural Camas County.

Regionally, firefighters haven't had as much success on other major wildfires this week, a fact that hasn't been lost on the national media. Across central Idaho and western Montana, a combination of extremely dry weather and significant winds has caused many blazes to greatly increase in size. A total of 36 large wildfires are now burning in the two states alone, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise reported on its Web site Thursday.

Wildfires burning throughout central Idaho include:

·The Shower Bath Fire, a 30,500-acre blaze on the Salmon-Challis National Forest. On Monday, the fire was just 12,900 acres in size, and was declared at zero percent containment Thursday. The fire is 18 miles northwest of Challis and is threatening structures. A large fire-area closure covering land both within and outside the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness was expanded on Saturday, Aug. 11.

·The East Zone Complex on the Payette National Forest. It is the largest in the state and is made up of three fires covering a total of 169,842 acres. On Monday, the complex was just 94,116 acres in size. It is 25 miles northeast of McCall and at 10 percent containment. The isolated communities of Secesh and Warren as well as several historic sites and bridges are threatened. Evacuations are in effect and the Valley County Sheriff has ordered a closure of the Lick Creek and Warm Lake roads beginning at the Boise National Forest boundary. Also closed is the Warren Wagon Road from the Secesh River Road to the west end of Warren.

·The Middle Fork Complex. A total of 17,416 acres are burning on this complex of three separate fires 15 miles northeast of Garden Valley. On Thursday, the complex was reported to be at 98 percent containment, up from 90 percent containment on Monday.




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