Idaho Firefighting Costs Could Top $25 Million 

click to enlarge Boise Hot Shots on the line of the Cougar Fire.

Boise National Forest

Boise Hot Shots on the line of the Cougar Fire.

This summer’s above-average heat and below-average fuel moisture continue to make conditions ripe for wildfires sparked by anything from stray sparks to lightning strikes. Idaho firefighters say the region is in the midst of an unprecedented wildfire season—so intense it can be witnessed from space.

The Soda Fire has now scorched more than 280,000 acres along the Idaho/Oregon border and is 95 percent contained. The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team was expected to hand oversight back to the Bureau of Land Management sometime today. That blaze has killed wildlife, wild horses and livestock, and destroyed precious rangeland.

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Meanwhile, more firefighting resources were shifted Tuesday to the expanding Tepee Springs Fire, south of Riggins, which has now burned more than 6,600 acres. There were nearly 200 firefighters on the lines Aug. 18, but officials were hoping that the number would double by Thursday, Aug. 20.

Hundreds of nearby residents have been on alert for several days, being told they should stand by in case of emergency evacuation. Those communities will receive an update this evening, when firefighters brief residents at two town hall meetings, both at 6 p.m., at the New Meadows High School and the Riggins Community Center.

In the Boise National Forest, the Cougar Fire has burned 591 acres northeast of Cascade and is 27 percent contained. A community meeting will be held today at 3 p.m. at the North Shore Lodge at Warm Lake to update residents on progress. The West Scriver Fire, 13 miles north of Crouch, has burned 607 acres and is 80 percent contained, with 300 firefighting personnel on the fire lines.

While millions of dollars in federal funds continue to be pumped into firefighting efforts across the region, state officials said Tuesday that Idaho firefighting costs for the season could easily top $25 million and that this year’s fire conditions were some of the worst in nearly a century.

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