Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fires continue spread through wilderness

Mustang Complex, Halstead cause complications

Express Staff Writer

The Halstead Fire rages in the timber north of Stanley. This photo was taken by part-time Ketchum resident Elizabeth Kahane while on a charter flight preparing to land at the Smiley Creek airstrip, south of the fire.
Courtesy photo

The 104,632-acre Halstead fire came within three miles of Stanley on Tuesday, but still held north of state Highway 75 and Highway 21, the Salmon-Challis National Forest reported.

A news release stated that crews conducted burnout operations in the Kelly and Stanley creek drainages and formed a dozer line along Stanley Creek to slow fire spread toward Highway 75. Burnouts are also being conducted near Cape Horn to protect a power line and some private structures.

Photographer and part-time Ketchum resident Elizabeth Kahane said she saw both the Halstead Fire and the Mustang Complex Fire north of Salmon up close on Friday, when the end of a raft trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon brought her close to the fire’s path.

Kahane said she and her husband were stopped along with their guides and fellow rafters on the way back from the trip via the Main Salmon road, when the fire came close to the road and firefighters stopped traffic.

“We were clearly the first to hit the spot,” she said. “I could feel the heat of the fire.”

Kahane also said she got an “amazing vision” of the Halstead Fire when flying out of the area, and smoke from the Trinity Ridge Fire north of Featherville prevented her plane from landing at Friedman Memorial Airport. The plane landed in Smiley Creek instead, she said.

Boo Boo, a black bear cub injured while fleeing the Mustang Complex Fire near Salmon, is believed to have been orphaned during the blaze, the U.S. Forest Service stated in a news release. Photo courtesy of Karen Dunlap, U.S. Forest Service

The Mustang Complex Fire northwest of Salmon continued to grow over the week, following the Salmon River and orphaning a black bear cub near the Corn Creek boat launch.

U.S. Forest Service employees Emily Atlas and Dan Blanchard spotted the bear in a Douglas fir tree early Saturday morning. The bear, whom Atlas named “Boo Boo” after Yogi Bear’s sidekick, had paws blistered with second-degree burns.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Conservation Officer Justin Williams came to Corn Creek on Sunday morning and, along with Atlas and a member of the fire crew, captured the cub.

Williams said the cub, which weighed roughly 25 pounds, had likely not eaten in days. The bear was brought to state veterinarian Mark Drew for examination at the Garden Valley Ranger Station. The bear may be transported to McCall for further treatment depending on the severity of the burns.

Kate Wutz:

Air-quality advisory

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory for Blaine and Camas counties this week due to smoke from the Trinity Ridge Fire north of Featherville.

The advisory includes a mandatory burn ban, meaning all open burning is prohibited within Blaine and Camas counties. However, the concern has been dialed back a bit as smoke has lifted from the Wood River Valley. The department’s current advisory calls air quality “moderate,” meaning only unusually sensitive people—such as children, the elderly and those with existing respiratory conditions—should consider limiting prolonged outdoor activity.


Fire weather watch

The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for Wednesday, as gusty winds and low humidity reach the valley. A watch means that critical fire weather conditions can occur—but that a red flag warning has not yet been issued.

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