Fire season off to early start, new blaze reported near Stanley

Fire season off to early start, new blaze reported near Stanley
Photo Courtesy of InciWeb.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Ground and air crews on Wednesday were battling a 60-acre wildfire burning in a popular tourist area about 10 miles south of Stanley in central Idaho.

The goal was putting out the Gold Fire before it spreads, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Julie Thomas said.

"I think our chances are pretty good," she said. "It's early in the season, we have lots of resources, and the terrain it's in makes it easy to get folks to it and around it."

There have been no injuries or damage to structures, Thomas added.

She said the fire grew to 60 acres in a matter of hours after starting Tuesday afternoon and is being fought by two hotshot crews, two helicopters and five engine crews. An air tanker made a retardant drop Tuesday and could be called in again.

The mountainous area is heavily traveled by tourists starting this time of year, Thomas said. It's in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which draws hikers, rafters, rock climbers, anglers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

"We have a lot of visitors there right now," Thomas said. "Also, it's just not a piece of ground we need to let a fire burn in. It's important we get it out, and we're working to do that."

The fire is in the general area of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery and a tourist area at Redfish Lake, but neither area is in danger, Thomas said.

But businesses in Stanley fear a repeat of the last two summers, when they lost customers amid fires in the region.

"It kills us," said Patti Wright, owner of the Riverside Motel in Stanley. "We can't afford to lose another summer."

Nearby Idaho Highway 75 remained open, which is part of the state's scenic byway system, cutting through the middle of the high-elevation valley bracketed by mountains.

"It's rare we have a fire this early," Thomas said, attributing the speed of the fire to smaller-burning material associated with sagebrush that has dried out. "It's got to be (dry) to carry a fire like this. The fine fuels are drying out really fast."

The heavy timber in the area is not as dry and likely is not as susceptible to fire this early in the season, Thomas said.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

Visitors to the area should be careful with fire, making sure campfires are extinguished, Thomas said.