Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fire burns 7,100 acres south of Fairfield

Containment was expected Tuesday night

Express Staff Writer

    A lightning-caused wildfire has burned about 7,100 acres of brush just west of state Highway 46 between Gooding and Fairfield, but its spread has slowed since it began Sunday afternoon.
    “It made a really strong push to the east yesterday but we pretty much stopped that,” said BLM Twin Falls District Fire Information Officer Josh Olsen on Monday. “Things are looking a lot better than they did yesterday.”
    The Fir Grove Fire is burning on BLM land and on some private land about two miles north of a dirt road that heads west from Highway 46 toward Gooding City of Rocks.
    The fire crossed the highway in multiple locations and Olsen said it is still burning “in pretty heavy brush” 4 to 5 feet high in several places. In a news release issued Monday night, the BLM stated that the fire was 50 percent contained, and estimated complete containment time for the fire at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
    Resources committed to the fire include 180 firefighters, 20 engines, three dozers, two water tenders and more than 10 aircraft.
    Highway 46 was closed from the vicinity of the fire north to U.S. Highway 20 on Sunday but was reopened Monday.
    The BLM reported that no buildings were burned by the fire.
    However, part of the fire has burned along an Idaho Power 138-kilovolt line that carries electricity from the King Substation near Hagerman to the Wood River Valley. Another, redundant, 138-kV line brings power to the Hailey substation from the Midpoint Substation near Shoshone.
    Idaho Power spokesman Brad Bowlin said at least one power pole was partially burned and a section of the line from the King substation was “de-energized” as a precaution.
    “That’s pretty standard when there’s fire in the area,” he said.
    Bowlin said all power to the Wood River Valley is now being routed via the Midpoint Substation.
    He said an Idaho Power crew has been dispatched to determine whether other poles have been damaged.
    Idaho Power has plans to rebuild the line from the King Substation with steel towers to make it more weather- and fire-resistant. Company spokeswoman Lynette Berriochoa said an environmental assessment will be submitted to the BLM during the next year. She said the company hopes to do the construction in 2015.
    Other wildfire activity in the area includes:

  •  Thirty firefighters remained at the scene of the Road 210 Fire near Redfish Lake on Monday doing mop-up work. The fire’s stated size was reduced from 300 acres to 197 acres due to more accurate mapping.
  • The Lodgepole Fire, 10 miles west of Challis, has grown to 13,700 acres, burning in lodgepole pine and dispersed Douglas fir. It was reported to be only 15 percent contained by Tuesday. Resources being used to attack the fire include 785 firefighters, engines and aircraft. The Salmon-Challis National Forest has closed roads and campgrounds in the area. The fire’s cause remains under investigation.
  • The Papoose Fire, along the lower part of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, has burned 9,439 acres, up from 7,700 acres a week ago. The lightning-caused fire, detected July 8, is burning in grass, brush and small stands of timber in rugged, inaccessible terrain above the west side of the river downstream from Big Creek. Forty-five firefighters are working at the scene, primarily to keep flames from crossing Big Creek and to protect campsites along the Middle Fork.
  • The Leggit Fire, at the southern tip of the Sawtooth Wilderness east of Atlanta, has grown to 1,154 acres. Seventy firefighters are working on the blaze, which was ignited by lightning on July 2. Helicopters have been dropping water and crews have been building hand lines in the Ross Fork confluence area. Indirect hand line has been completed in the Middle Fork Boise River corridor in case the fire continues a northerly spread. Fire activity over the next few days is predicted to be minimal.

Greg Moore:

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