Fire causes campgrounds at Redfish Lake to be evacuated

Fire causes campgrounds at Redfish Lake to be evacuated
Photo courtesy Barbara Colson
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho wildfire managers are bringing in more personnel and equipment to battle a fire south of Stanley that forced the evacuation of Redfish Lake campers and guests at the historic lodge.

The 210 Road Fire, which ignited Monday afternoon, has burned less than a square mile of lodgepole pine and brush. At one point, the fire burned to the border of a state fish hatchery and a nearby subdivision, but no structures were damaged, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Shortly after the fire started, forest officials opted to evacuate the series of campgrounds on the lake's southern edge and guests booked at the Redfish Lake Lodge, built in 1929 on the north shore of the lake at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains.

The area remained under an evacuation order Tuesday.

"The lodge and the campgrounds were not immediately threatened," fire spokeswoman Linda Steinhaus said. "The evacuation was really all about public safety at the time."

Flames also posed a risk to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery, including dormitories and nearby residences. Inhabitants were temporarily evacuated as fire burned through a stand of trees separating the dorm from residential housing.

Crews with hoses aided by helicopters dropping water ultimately stymied the fire's advance in the state hatchery, where Chinook and sockeye salmon are raised. State officials reported the only damage was a burned fenced line and a handful of signs.

Fire managers have called in an elite Type 1 command staff to take over the fire starting Wednesday. Until then, a pair of hotshot crews with air support will work to manage the fire's growth, said Julie Thomas, spokeswoman for the Sawtooth National Forest.

"The fire has really outgrown the resources we have in place right now," she said.

The 210 Fire is the latest wildfire burning across southern and eastern Idaho, a section of the state that has experienced steady temperatures in the high 90s, lightning strikes and a lack of rain. As of Tuesday, more than 1,000 firefighters, managers and support staff were assigned to 11 fires across the region.

The Ridge Fire, burning 14 miles north of the town of Lowman, grew Monday and has now charred nearly 6 square miles, some of it into an area of the forest scorched during the summer of 2006. The fire is 10 percent contained and four more crews were flown in Tuesday by helicopter to establish a fire line in a remote area along the fire's northwest corner.

But despite suppression efforts, fire managers say the Ridge Fire has the potential to grow significantly and be one of those blazes that burn through the season. Ignited by lightning, the fire is moving through sub-alpine fir, including stands dead or dying from beetle infestation and other diseases, fire spokesman David Olson said.

"It's a drought year and conditions remain really dry," Olson said. "This has the potential to burn really hot and have a real impact on resources with a couple of extra months of burning."

Near the town of Challis, crews were working on the Lodgepole Fire that started Saturday and has scorched nearly 2 square miles and led to the evacuation of three ranch homes and the closure of a forest service campground.

The largest fire in Idaho is the 11-square-mile Brown Butte Fire near Shoshone. Officials said the blaze was smoldering and almost completely contained.

Crews have also gained the upper hand on the human-caused Pine Creek Fire, which started last week in the forested mountains northeast of Boise and so far has burned 4.3 square miles. Officials said the blaze was 90 percent contained and mop-up crews were to focus on rehabbing fire lines and monitoring areas where the fire was still smoldering.

Firefighters in northern Idaho also responded quickly to a 10-acre fire that broke out Monday in Q'Emlin Park in Post Falls. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but fire crews from Alberta, Canada, joined local forces to fight the blaze burning in a municipal park and its 40-acre trail system.