Friday, September 7, 2007

Another Idaho ski resort threatened

Crews making headway on Grays Creek Fire, 2.5 miles from Tamarack ski resort


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

While the renowned slopes and ski lifts of Sun Valley appear no longer at risk from the Castle Rock Fire, another Idaho ski resort is now facing the threat of advancing flames.

As of Thursday morning, the 24,413-acre Grays Creek Fire on the Payette National Forest in western Idaho had advanced to within 2.5 miles of the summit of the Tamarack Ski Resort, which is four miles southwest of the small community of Donnelly.

Fire crews working on the lightning-caused fire made significant progress extending containment lines around the blaze Wednesday, a U.S. Forest Service press release states. Crews were able to complete containment lines along the east and southeast side of the fire, which brought the fire to 55 percent containment.

A total of 815 firefighters, seven helicopters, 21 engines and six bulldozers are working to contain the large blaze. From its beginnings about 10 miles south of the small community of Council, the blaze has burned in a mostly northeastern direction along the southern base of 8,126-foot Council Mountain, a popular backcountry recreation area.

The Grays Creek Fire began Aug. 30 and has supplanted the Castle rock Fire as the No. 1 priority blaze in the nation, Grays Creek Fire Information Officer Andy Alexandrou said by phone Thursday.

"This fire is still a high priority," Alexandrou said.

Like the fire suppression effort on the Castle Rock Fire, firefighters are experiencing steady, day-by-day success in bringing the blaze closer to full containment.

Alexandrou said fire crews were aided Wednesday by two-thirds of an inch of rainfall.

"It really quieted the fire down," he said.

Alexandrou said that between Wednesday and Thursday, the blaze grew by only several hundred acres. He said fire managers don't expect the blaze to advance much closer to Tamarack Resort.

"It's looking good," he said. "The possibility of escapement from its present boundary is very, very minimal."

According to a map of the fire released Thursday, most of the completed fire line is along the western, southern and southeastern perimeters of the blaze. Fire managers have predicted a Sept. 12 containment date.

In the days to come, firefighters working on the fire will continue to improve fire line along the rest of the fire perimeter. On the southwestern edge of the blaze, crews will begin rehabilitating bulldozer lines.

For public safety, the Payette National Forest has instituted a public closure area. Main roads into the approximately 150,000-acre area have staffed roadblocks. Hunters and other visitors are being asked to stay out of the area to allow fire crews access to secure the fire perimeter.

Throughout Idaho, 11 large wildfires covering an estimated 855,223 acres continue to burn. They include:

· Cascade Complex, Boise National Forest. This 278,334-acre complex of two fires 16 miles northeast of Cascade is 30 percent contained. Numerous structures remain threatened and evacuations and road closures are in effect.

· East Zone Complex, Payette National Forest. This 246,150-acre complex made up of two fires is 25 miles northeast of McCall. The remote blaze is at an unknown containment level. Structures remain threatened and road closures are in effect.




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