U.S. Highway 95 was closed temporarily Friday night in Washington County, between Weiser and Midvale, as firefighters conducted a backburn in the hopes of stopping a wildfire that has burned 11,500 acres.
Payette National Forest spokesman Brian Harris said firefighters expected to finish the backburn around 9 p.m., and the state transportation department’s highway information Web site showed the highway was back open at 10 p.m.
Some residents in the Midvale area have been asked to evacuate due to the Keithly Fire.
The Mesa Fire, located four miles south of Council in Adams County, has forced evacuations in the Cottonwood Road and south Exeter Lane areas, according to a Facebook post from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.
A Level 3 evacuation, which signifies the most urgent form of alert, was called for the Cottonwood area while a Level 2 evacuation was issued for the South Exeter area.
The fire has burned 3,000 acres so far — and one structure was lost, Harris said. He did not know what type of structure was lost.
“It’s actively burning and got a column on it that’s 10,000 feet tall,” he said.
The Mesa Fire was determined to be human caused. Harris said it was the result of a flat tire, “that must have got down to the rim and threw off sparks.”
Wildfires have led to temporary closures of U.S. Highway 95 and State Highway 55.
The Idaho Transportation Department on Friday afternoon issued a travel advisory for motorists planning to travel into the Boise Mountains this weekend due to active fires throughout the area.
ITD said given the unpredictable nature of wildfires, conditions can change rapidly and may result in restrictions to the highway for the safety of the traveling public and emergency responders. ITD is advising motorists planning to travel from the Treasure Valley north into the mountains this weekend to plan ahead. The department advised travelers to keep gas tanks filled, pack water and refreshments, and be prepared for potential delays.
Updates continue to be made about all wildfires in Idaho at inciweb.nwcg.gov.
The National Fire Preparedness Level was raised to its highest level Friday afternoon (5) by the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group. Level 5 signifies “very high activity” across the country.
The Keithly Fire, which started July 25, has now grown to 11,500 acres and evacuations in place. Ignited by lightning, the fire is 4 miles outside Midvale and no containment is listed.
Residents on Mann Creek Road were asked to evacuate on Thursday, and more residents were evacuated from Deer Creek on Friday morning.
An evacuation center for residents is located at Vendome Events Center, at 309 State St., in Weiser.
Due to smoke, the Midvale Rest Stop has been closed as the fire is burning in some steep, rocky terrain and more than 100 firefighters are on scene.
A community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Weiser High School about the Keithly Fire.
The Rattlesnake Creek Fire, west of U.S. Highway 95 at mile marker 184, has grown to 3,043 acres and is at 0 percent containment. It’s located near Pollock in Idaho County on the Nez Perce-Clearwater and Payette National Forests, according to Inciweb. As of Thursday night, 423 firefighters were on scene.
The Idaho Transportation Department reported that a section of Highway 95 in Washington County was closed Friday afternoon as of 3:32 p.m. from milepost 93 to milepost 105, near Midvale, due to the blaze. It had closed and reopened earlier in the day.
A pre-evacuation notice for nearby residents in Pollock and Whitewater that was sent out Tuesday is still in place.
As of Friday night, the Mile Marker 73 & Highway 55 Fire, near Gardena, had burned around 4,480 acres. The fire started July 25 and currently has 132 firefighters on scene. It isn’t expected to be contained until Aug. 7. The cause is under investigation. Travelers are asked to avoid the area.
Highway 55 is now open in both directions but fire crews will be in the area and helicopters may use the Payette River for water dipping to cool the fire perimeter, according to the Department of Lands.
The Lodgepole Fire, near Crouch, was declared a wildfire on July 14, which started after a prescribed burn. As of Friday afternoon, it was at 1,616 acres and 75 percent contained. It’s about 16 miles northeast of Garden Valley.
Campgrounds along east side of National Forest Service road 671, including Silver Creek Plunge, are open. The 671 and 698 roads are open for motorized travel, and the trails along the west boundary of the closure are open. Firefighters are being supported with helicopter water drops and operations continue with mop-up and patrol tactics.
By Friday afternoon, the Bruneau Fire, sparked by thunderstorms passing through southern Idaho late Tuesday afternoon, had burned 61,000 acres near Murphy Hot Springs, according to Idaho Bureau of Land Management.
Murphy Hot Springs is in southern Owyhee County, along the Nevada border. The fire is burning five miles northwest of Murphy Hot Springs.
Structures in the area are not immediately threatened, the BLM said Friday.
Resources on the fire: three dozers, 13 engines, one fuel truck, one camp crew, Three Creek Rangeland Fire Protection Association, three water tenders.
The Bruneau Fire was 30 percent contained on Thursday.
Burning about 13 miles east of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, the Cat Fire is sharing resources with the Bruneau Fire. As of Friday, the Cat Fire had grown to 26,522 acres and was sharing air attacks with Bruneau.
The Cat Fire was started by lightning and there’s no estimated containment date, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
Lightning sparked the Reynolds Lake Fire, which has burned 1,068 acres since July 17. The fire was 60 percent contained Thursday, according to inciweb.
It is burning in heavy timber in the Bitterroot and Salmon-Challis national forests, about 35 miles southwest of Darby, Montana. No structures are threatened.
On Thursday, 113 firefighters were working the fire,including four crews, two engines and two helicopters.
This is a breaking news story that the Idaho Statesman will continue to update.
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