Fire prompts closures, lane restrictions on Idaho 55
It was an odd image that was carried on Treasure Valley television stations this week – an ITD snowplow pressed into service as a pilot car, leading motorists through a smoke-enveloped segment of Idaho 55 north of Boise.
A Labor Day weekend fire erupted near Banks, about 32 miles north of Eagle, forcing intermittent highway closures. Personnel from District 3 have operated in 24-hour emergency mode since Tuesday, assisting the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in traffic control.
The heavily traveled highway serves as a recreational route to the McCall area and a vital link to Idaho’s only major north-south highway, U.S. 95. For most of the week, was limited to a single lane of alternating north/south traffic, ushered through the fire zone by the snowplow pilot vehicle.
ITD elected to use the plow in the event debris had to be cleared from the highway to allow traffic to pass.
Federal firefighting agencies requested a four-hour closure of the highway tonight (Sept. 7) to enable them to conduct a back-burn operation designed to remove natural fuel. Deprived of that fuel, the fire would stop expanding and enable firefighters to hasten containment efforts.
As of Friday morning, the Chief Parrish fire had consumed about 3,150 acres and was listed at 45 percent contained. Fire officials hope for full containment by Sunday.
The troublesome fire along Idaho 55 is one of eight major fires burning in Idaho this week. Two new fires were reported in southern Idaho, one in Owyhee County near the Oregon state line and another in Cassia County near the Utah state line. Both were quickly contained.
The Cascade Complex fire remains Idaho’s largest at 278,334 acres in Valley County. It was considered 30 percent contained as of Friday, but no estimate is available on full containment. The East Zone fire northeast of McCall grew to 246,150 acres.
For the latest fire information visit the National Interagency Fire Center’s Web site.