Fires creating closures on national forest


by Stephanie Zepelin

Posted on August 30, 2013 at 5:18 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 30 at 5:21 AM

BOISE -- Labor Day weekend is around the corner, and many folks might want to head out for a camping trip.  However, there are some camping areas that are closed after a handful of large fires in the area.

Cities and town who have been affected by the fires are recovering and hoping people will take a weekend trip, but the closures don't affect the cities just the forest areas near them.

"We're just trying to make people aware of the fact that the fire still may have a potential to get going in some cases, but really more so is, when you have a recently burned area, there's a lot of hazards that are associated with that," said Boise National Forest Public Affairs Officer David Olson.

The Beaver Creek Fire, Elk Complex Fire, Kelley Fire, and the Little Queens Fire have closed some areas due to post-fire dangers.

"Trees may be partially burned through. You may not really notice that they could fall at any particular point in time," said Olson. "Rock, rolls very easily or comes falling off of embankments, steep areas and those can be dislodged very quickly after a fire, and that's always a watch out for both firefighters and certainly for the public."

A large closure area is because of the Elk Complex Fire, which forest officials said exhibited extreme fire behavior.

"The Pony Complex and the Elk Complex in two days, in a 48 hour period, burned 180,000 acres," Olson said. "That's a rapid-moving, extremely unprecedented sort of fire movement."

The Boise National Forest is doing an assessment right now to figure out what rehabilitation needs to be done from the Elk Complex Fire, and when people can go back into the area.

"The early indications are it's going to take quite a long time, like potentially a year or more, to rehab some of these areas because they were significantly burned," Olson said.

Right now, the experts say it's simply unsafe for people to be out in many of the burned areas.

"It's really a safety issue. Firefighters are trained, they go through quite a bit of watch-out situations, and so they're prepared for it, even then they're at high-risk," said Olson. "So if a person has not really had any training, maybe is unaware of what some of the risks are after a fire, that's what we're really concerned about is they can get themselves hurt very easily if the area is opened too quick."

Although some popular areas are impacted by these closures, there are many other spots that are still open. Some of those on the Boise National Forest:

  • North of Middle Fork Boise River Road
  • The Payette River Systems (North, Middle, and South forks)
  • Cascade
  • Warm Lake
  • The South fork of the Salmon River