Thursday, July 17, 2014

Little Progress Made on Whiskey Complex Fire; Smoke Here to Stay

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 2:35 PM

click to enlarge View of the Wash Fire from the Incident Command Post. - BOISE NATIONAL FOREST
  • Boise National Forest
  • View of the Wash Fire from the Incident Command Post.

Wednesday served as a good first taste of smoke in the valley, but today it has really settled in. And it's not going anywhere soon.

A recent update from the Boise National Forest states that due to a cold front passing through the area, stronger winds are expected today, posing a challenge for fire managers who are working to get a handle on the Whiskey Complex fires near Garden Valley. The fires have burned 4,500 acres so far, but with 300 personnel engaged in the fight, they're now 3 percent contained. Fire managers estimate full containment by Wednesday, July 30. The fires started on the night of July 13, when a thunderstorm sparked 18 other fires in the same area. They've been fed by extremely dry fuels and high temperatures. 

The Wash and Calder fires combined July 16, burning along
click to enlarge Downtown Boise as seen from the U.S. Bank building on the morning of July 17. - ZACH HAGADONE
  • Zach Hagadone
  • Downtown Boise as seen from the U.S. Bank building on the morning of July 17.
 the South Fork of the Payette River. Fire crews are working to hold the fire from moving further south, where Pioneerville sits only half a mile away. The community remains under a voluntary evacuation. Grimes Pass and the South Fork Payette River roads are closed north of Pioneersville. 

Community meetings will take place today at 6 p.m. at the Garden Valley High School and Friday at 6 p.m. at the Centerville Community Center, where incident personnel will provide updates on suppression efforts. Public information officers will also be on Garden Valley Community Radio, KXGV-LP 98.5 FM at 2:30 p.m. every day except for Sunday to give updates as well. 

The Banks to Lowman Road remains open, but the Hot Springs Campground is still closed.

As far as smoke in the Treasure Valley, it's coming from fires burning nearby, as well as Oregon, Washington and Canada, according to Boise State Public Radio. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality currently rates the valley's air as "unhealthy."

"We'll see higher levels in the early morning hours and before lunch," DEQ's Michael Toole told BSPR. That's because morning inversions and northwest winds hold the smoke in the valley. Then when afternoon winds shift, the smoke is pushed out. Hopefully if that pattern continues, we'll see clearing in the afternoons which will give us some relief."

Toole predicts this could be the new norm for the next month or two.

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