Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cool, wet weather slows South Barker Fire

Fire closure order will remain in effect until itís safe to re-enter area

A large plume of smoke rises over the lightning-caused South Barker Fire on Friday, Aug. 29. The fire is located northeast of the backcountry community of Featherville in the western Smoky Mountains.

The South Barker Fire grew an estimated 100 acres on Monday, with activity seen on the eastern edge of the blaze in upper Weeks Gulch, Burnt Log Creek and on the ridge east of Narrow Canyon.

Sparked by lightning on Aug. 7, the blaze is burning in the vicinity of Willow Creek, a largely roadless side drainage to the South Fork of the Boise River on the Sawtooth National Forest's Fairfield Ranger District, northeast of the backcountry community of Featherville.

The cool, wet weather that passed through the area on Monday dropping up to two inches of snow in the higher elevations helped reduce fire activity on the now 33,600-acre blaze, reports from Sawtooth fire officials indicate.

On the southern edge of the wildfire on Tuesday, firefighters were sent to Big Water Creek in an effort to stop the blaze's southward movement in that drainage. Crews continued working to protect homes and associated outbuildings in the South Fork Boise River residential area as a precautionary measure should the fire move closer.

On Monday, the blaze continued to move east towards Skeleton Creek and was burning 1.5 miles east of Featherville, about 12 miles east of Anderson Ranch Reservoir.

A total of 211 firefighters were assigned to the blaze on Tuesday.

An area closure on the Fairfield Ranger District remains in effect. As soon as it's safe for people to reenter the area, forest managers say, they will reopen access.

Due to the potential for the fire to move east, the area closure order was extended last Thursday. It now extends north of the South Fork of the Boise River Road to the ridge above the Bear Creek Road and east of the rural South Fork Boise River residential area until further notice.

The blaze is burning in part of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's big-game Unit 43, where a bowhunting season was set to commence on Saturday, Aug. 30. Bowhunters headed to the area will find much of the hunting unit inaccessible to them because of the fire-area closure.

Forest Road 227 is closed from Featherville to Big Smoky Junction. Forest Road 012 is also closed above Big Smoky Junction into the South Fork residential area, though private landowners can still access their property.

U.S. Forest Service land beyond the residential area is closed.

The expanded closure includes Trail 070 along Paradise Creek and all trails to the west.

Not far from the South Barker Fire, a smaller fire continues to burn in a remote area on the Fairfield Ranger District. Called the Johnson 2 Fire, the blaze is located on the ridge above Johnson Creek just south of the SNRA boundary.

According to fire officials, growth on the 30-acre blaze slowed Monday after two inches of snow fell in the area. A crew of 26 firefighters flown to the fire on Monday is working to stop the fire from spreading north.

For additional information on area closures, contact the Fairfield Ranger District at (208) 764-3222.

Express reporter Tony Evans contributed to this article.

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