The Johnson Creek airstrip, a popular interim destination for accessing Yellow Pine and the high mountains east of Cascade, remains open despite a nearby forest fire. But travel into and out of the grass strip is not recommend, ITD's Division of Aeronautics said today (Friday, Aug. 3).
Traffic into the airstrip normally increases in early August for the annual Harmonica Festival in Yellow Pine. Because of area wildfires, the Valley County Sheriff's Office closed the road from Warm Lake to Yellow Pine Thursday afternoon at the request of the U.S. Forest Service. People already in the Yellow Pine area are permitted to leave, but no incoming traffic is allowed.
As a result, organizers of the annual Harmonica Festival canceled the event that was scheduled to begin today (Friday) and continue through Sunday morning.
ITD airport maintenance personnel and the airstrip caretaker moved equipment from Johnson Creek last week as a precaution because the Riordan Fire burned to with a mile of the scenic backcountry facility.
Firefighters secured the southern and western flanks of the fire and are limiting its spread to the northeast. The diminished threat enabled ITD crews to begin moving equipment – including one of two courtesy cars -- back to the airstrip early this week. Use of the airstrip, however, is not recommended because of dense smoke and limited visibility.
Smoke continues to shroud the airstrip early in the day, said caretaker Eric Hayes, and returns in the evening. The best time to land or take off from the airstrip appears to be between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., which typically is not the best time for flying.
Nestled between peaks that reach about 8,300 feet, the backcountry strip presents challenges under ideal conditions; smoke and the poor visibility that results, add to the challenge. Pilots are advised to check NOTAMS and be aware of several temporary flight restrictions that apply to the area northeast of Cascade. One of the TFRs is directly east of the Johnson Creek airstrip.
For information about visibility, call Hayes at 633-3333.To see current conditions at the airstrip, view the web camera sponsored by Midvale Telephone: http://www.ruralnetwork.net/~yellowpinecm/
The Federal Aviation Administration issued the temporary flight restrictions at the request of the U.S. Forest to avoid conflict with aerial fire suppression efforts.
Because of resource demands on other Idaho fires, the Forest Service delayed response to the Riordan Fire that was ignited by lightning about 10 days ago.
As of Wednesday, the Forest Service assigned 742 firefighters to the blaze, along with 33 fire engines, two bulldozers, eight water tankers and six helicopters. The Cascade Complex fire, which includes the Riordan, grew to nearly 40,000 acres by Thursday and was listed at only nine percent contained. It is burning in heavy timber and rugged terrain.
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.
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