Friday, August 31, 2012

Fires to north donít deter outfitters

River companies still floating, official says

Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Salmon-Challis National Forest Burnout operations send up flames in Kelly Creek north of Stanley on Aug. 22. The Halstead Fire grew to nearly 117,000 acres as of Thursday, but a Sawtooth National Recreation Area official says that most river outfitters are still open for business.

Despite growing closures, river outfitters are still floating the Salmon River—and taking clients along.

The Halstead Fire, burning three miles north of Stanley, grew to nearly 117,000 acres Thursday afternoon, with 550 personnel battling to hold lines around Cape Horn and Stanley creeks, as well as around state Highway 75, U.S. Highway 21 and the Yankee Fork area. 

A large area of the forest has been closed to recreationists. Highway 75 from Lower Stanley to Gardner Creek was closed Wednesday night to all but local traffic, which will be guided by a pilot car if conditions allow.

Ed Cannady, backcountry recreation manager and river manager for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, said Thursday afternoon that outfitters are still allowed on the water despite its closure to other recreationists.

“We can absolutely control the outfitters, when they put in and take out and where they are,” he said. “We’re comfortable working with them very closely.”

Cannady said the closures do not apply to outfitters’ vehicles, which are escorted through the fire area to the put-in points by pilot car. The area where the outfitters float is unaffected by the fire, he said, and the smoke has mostly lifted.

“Stanley has been getting some smoke, but they have been clear a lot of the time, too,” he said. “I don’t want people to think it’s nuclear winter up there, that there’s nothing going on in Stanley.”

Halstead Fire Public Information Officer Sallie Gentry said that though crews are standing by, no power to the Sawtooth Valley has been cut. She said she’s received calls about that from concerned citizens.

“There are no immediate plans to cut the power,” she said Thursday afternoon. “There is a statement out there that they are on standby. Some people are misinterpreting the possibility that it could happen.”

Highway 75 was expected to remain closed indefinitely as of press time.

The 196,451-acre Mustang Complex Fire in the North Fork Ranger District near Salmon prompted evacuation orders Wednesday night for homes along U.S. Highway 93 north of Salmon.

A fire information center statement urged all residents to “leave their property immediately as there is an immediate threat to life and safety.” Residents farther north toward Lost Pass Trail were warned that though evacuations were not being issued, homeowners should move mobile property, pets and livestock out of the area.

A Red Cross shelter for evacuees was opened in Salmon on Wednesday.

Highway 93 remains open.

Enclosure Fire
Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said Thursday that there’s no further information on the cause of the 179-acre Enclosure Fire that started southwest of Ketchum on Aug. 16. The fire was determined to be human-caused, but Nelson said the law enforcement branch of the U.S. Forest Service has been overwhelmed. “They have so many other priorities they are working on,” he said. “They have not made any more progress.”

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