Thursday, August 15, 2013

Unstable Weather Fans Flames of Massive Idaho Wildfires

Posted By on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

It's called the Haines Index, and a high level means trouble.

Fire managers are keeping a close eye on today's weather conditions in the region and, in particular, the Haines Index which measures dry, unstable air that whips up wildland fires.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect today for the Boise National Forest and the parts of the Payette and Sawtooth National Forests, and the weather could be firefighters' worst enemy as they continue to battle the nation's highest priority blazes in a region bordered by Mountain Home and the Wood River Valley.

Dozens of homes have been destroyed in and around the communities of Pine and Featherville as the Elk Complex Fire has now burned nearly 120,000 acres and is only 25 percent contained. Burnout operations continued throughout the night from north of Pine to the Dog Creek campground. The Burnouts are an effort to reduce the fuels feeding the massive wildfire. The Pine/Featherville Road remains closed from Highway 20 to just north of Featherville. The communities of Pine and Featherville remain under mandatory evacuation orders. A public meeting will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the Elk's Lodge in Mountain Home. Representatives of the Incident Management Team, the Elmore County Sheriff's Department, Idaho Power and the American Red Cross will be on hand.

Meanwhile, the Pony Complex Fire has now scorched approximately 150,000 acres and is 50 percent contained. Some roads have re-opened in the area of the Pony fire. The remaining road closures include Blacks Creek Road, Anderson Ranch Dam south on the Dixie Creek Cutoff to Highway 20, and Prairie Road/Cow Creek Road north from Highway 20. Mayfield Road is partially closed with no northbound traffic allowed from Blacks Creek.

And the Beaver Creek Fire, burning near the Wood River Valley, is threatening homes near Hailey and Ketchum. More 20-person Hotshot crews were dispatched to the fire Wednesday to assist in that effort. So far, more than 44,000 acres have been burned int he Beaver Creek blaze. Blaine County officials have announced pre-evacuation orders for Deer Creek and Greenhorn Gulch residents. Citizens will be briefed this evening at a community meeting at 7 p.m. in Ketchum's Church of the Big Wood on Saddle Road.

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