An outbreak of wildfires throughout Idaho is stretching the limits of firefighters and led to several highway closures this week.
U.S. 20 was closed intermittently near the Idaho National Laboratory Wednesday and Thursday as crews battled a large grass fire at East Butte. High winds complicated firefighting efforts in the predominately grass- and sagebrush-covered area. INL workers were asked to stay home Thursday because of the fire.
Known as the Twin Buttes fire, it has charred more than 9,400 acres four miles north of Atomic City. It was considered 80 percent contained as of Friday morning.
Nearly a dozen small fires merged east of Emmett Thursday, prompting ITD to close Idaho 52 between Emmett and Horseshoe Bend. Another small fire Thursday in southern Idaho prompted the temporary closure of Idaho 81 east of Declo.
As of Friday morning (July 20), 18 fires had burned more than one-half million acres rangeland and forest in Idaho. Five new fires were reported in the past 24 hours, from the Twin Falls BLM District to the Craig Mountain area southwest of White Bird in central Idaho.
The largest of the active fires is near the Idaho-Nevada border, south of Twin Falls. The Elk Mountain fire has consumed an estimated 160,000 acres and a large number of power poles and power lines. The rangeland fire was listed at only 10 percent contained today and was threatening structures.
Fire conditions were elevated to “extreme” this week as tinder-dry forests and ranges are threatened by storms that produce dry lightning. Extremely high temperatures and high winds exacerbate the fire conditions. All travelers are urged to remain on well-traveled roads and highways and refrain from off-highway travel in dry grass and brush.
The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation continues to operate under Stage 1 Fire Restrictions that prohibit the building, maintaining and attending of fires within undeveloped recreation sites without an owner-provided fire structure.
Stage 1 restrictions also prohibit smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
For information about highway closures related to wildfires and updates on highway construction projects that might impact travel in Idaho, call 511 or visit the Idaho Traveler Services Web site at 511.idaho.gov .
The status of wildfires in Idaho and throughout the West is available at the National Interagency Fire Center Web site at http://www.nifc.gov/fire_info/nfn.htm . The center, located in Boise, coordinates wildfire suppression efforts for nine national agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Association of State Forests.
See Idaho wildfires